OPINION: Blue-chip firms are losing staff to net start-ups

A recent survey of more than 3000 final-year college students in the US found that, for those in business studies, the top three organisations for which they would like to work after graduation were Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Walt Disney and Ernst & Young.

A recent survey of more than 3000 final-year college students in

the US found that, for those in business studies, the top three

organisations for which they would like to work after graduation were

Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Walt Disney and Ernst & Young.

In other words, the big reliable employer brands still seem to reign

supreme. Forget the net - everything changes, but everything remains the


Well, not really, because most of these graduates are not looking to the

companies for long-term careers. Rather, they are looking for just the

opposite. They only want to stay long enough to amass the sort of useful

experience they can then use to get involved in a more exciting and

lucrative venture - probably online, and sooner rather than later.

The concept of favoured employers is changing in a way few could have

foreseen even a year ago. Some of this the companies have brought on

their own heads. There has always been certain companies in the UK which

invariably made it to the top of lists of the best places to work, but

the reputations of companies such as Marks & Spencer, British Airways,

Sainsbury’s and Shell have suffered badly for a variety of reasons, and

ironically, a lot if it is to do with bad marketing.

Even those marketing reliables, the big consumer goods companies such as

Unilever and Procter & Gamble, are seen to be far more busy shedding

people and brands than building toward a greater future.

But it goes deeper than that. Big companies are facing what could almost

be called a seismic shift in recruiting, particularly of those high

flyers needed to run their businesses tomorrow. And too few show any

signs that they have grasped this.

It used to be considered that job satisfaction was more than about money

alone. Other factors were equally as critical to encourage


But the figures being generated in the gold rush that is the internet

are turning the situation upside-down.

Talented people, given the choice of a minuscule salary but potentially

millions from share options, are not thinking twice. No matter what the

risk, anything with dot.com in its name is attractive to those who would

once have been headed for the top of the blue-chips.

Working in a traditional company with no chance of stock options until

you reach the upper echelons of management seems a bit, well,


And not nearly as much fun.

Even consultancies, which have often been the choice of those who want

to combine intellectual stimulation with the promise of partner-level

pay, are feeling the loss. They are now watching their best and

brightest defect to utterly risky ventures.

One need only look at the case of the former head of global agency

Andersen Consulting, who recently jumped ship just before retiring to

run an online grocery delivery start-up called Webvan. His reward: both

the stock options and the excitement of taking the start-up public.

Try this test. Pretend you are a high-flying young marketer ready to

take on the challenge of a new job. You flick through the recruitment

ads at the back of Marketing. There you find some great companies,

offering you the chance to be a central figure in driving a business

forward strategically, developing and delivering innovative concepts,

even playing a vital role in establishing the e-commerce platform- all

very attractive.

Then you see advertisements for two internet companies, say book

e-tailer Amazon. co.uk and Buy.com, a US online retailer moving into the

UK. The ads are pretty much the same in terms of opportunities and

challenges on offer. That is, until you get to the end: they too promise

competitive salaries; but here’s the kicker-generous stock options. Is

there any choice?

Laura Mazur is a business writer and author.


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