The Big Firm's Small Guide To Huge Hiring Problems

Can't get the people you need to succeed? They might know something you don't

So, you're the chairman of a big IT company and you just can't find the bodies. Here's a pocket guide to why they're going elsewhere and what you can do about it.

Are you cool enough? Think Google and Apple are having problems hiring? How about those little start-ups doing mobile games and sparkly gadgets? Imagine you're 21 again, looking at that first grown-up job. Now imagine you're trying to impress someone in a bar. What logo would you want on your card if they ask for your number? You can't buy or fake being a desirable place to work, you can only reform or die.

Are you suing an ex-employee? Otherwise known as The SCO Effect, suing people you previously counted as friends makes others think twice before joining the party. So does gunning down entire divisions and outsourcing, or treating anyone over 35 as a plague victim. Or conducting propaganda campaigns against your competition that make your marketing people purr and bystanders cringe. These things matter. What looks like honest, aggressive business practices to you smacks of bullying to others — and if they're bright enough to be interesting, they'll be smart enough to go elsewhere.

Do you have exceptional employee satisfaction ratings? So does Scientology. If your hiring procedures select for compliant mindset above talent, you're going to run out of bright people really quickly. Try asking people who you wanted but didn't want you why they took their brains elsewhere.

Are you stuck in the past when it comes to motivating people? Money's good, essential even, but it can't compare in the feel-good stakes for people getting to ship products they're proud of, having the freedom to be creative and getting the buzz back. Worried about free, open source software but can't see why on earth anyone would write the stuff? A sure sign you've lost sight of why people like to work — and why you may not be someone they'd like to work for.

If none of the above apply to you but you still can't get the people you need, then don't worry. The problem will go away in the end. Otherwise, no reform can be too radical. Who knows, you might even start to enjoy working there again yourself.