Since the financial crisis of 2008, Corporate America has proven it can carry out a singular focus on cost cutting and downsizing. And, as the Occupy Wall Street folks would argue, overzealously hoarding cash.

As companies continue to hunker down and concentrate on margins, they have put capital investments, research and development, and hiring on indefinite hold.

They've suspended concerns for another crucial area as well: their current employees.

Asset management executives are beginning to speak up about the repercussions this oversight will cause. Namely, lost business opportunities and, eventually, a talent drain.

"Think about the people currently inside your organization. They are dying for opportunities and career mobility," Penny Alexander, senior vice president of human resources at Franklin Templeton Investments, told NICSA's General Membership Meeting. "During the crisis, we all had our heads in the bunker trying to limit the collateral damage."

Three years later, asset management firms and other companies are now beginning to look towards future trends driving their industries, Alexander said. But few are cultivating their talent pool.

A recent Towers Watson survey found that 40% of employees are either disenchanted or disengaged, Alexander noted. Yet, with "more jobs lost in the recession of 2008-09 than in all four previous recessions," she noted, "the problem is, those folks aren't going anywhere. They are rested and vested. That means making them feel committed to your organization will be extremely important.

"You can have the best strategy in the world, but you need your people with their oars in the water," Alexander continued. "That means leadership development, employee engagement, retaining critical roles, a succession plan and deep bench strength."

Jim Ware, founder of Focus Consulting Group, made similar observations at Money Management Institute's Fall Solutions 2011 conference. Eighty-six percent of the most profitable financial services firms say they excel at attracting top talent, compared with 61% of the industry overall, Ware said. Forty-nine percent say they offer solid career paths and succession planning, versus 28% of the industry overall. Now is the right time to resasses your business-and include all employees.

Are your employees engaged? MME

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