I've had a couple conversations this week about the size of the "passive"talent pool. Different people define this pool differently, but at the highest level, it's the folks that are not currently looking for a position. It's hard to estimate the size of this pool. But I think that it's safe to say that the concentration of the jobless in the "active" pool has increased. I imagine that many of the employed, who might otherwise be looking for a new challenge or a better opportunity, have decided to hunker down and ride this recession out. So less of these employed but active seekers in the market means more passive folks and less likelihood of someone moving from the passive to the active while they are still employed. I am sure that a study will come out about this just in time for it to not be useful information anymore (to me, at least).

Anyway, I don't see many companies talking about this hunkered down population of employees and thinking about the mass exodus they might experience once the economy turns around. Heck, the economy doesn't even have to turn around, people just need to think it's going to. It's kind of like an employment brand stock market. People engage in trades in the market of the expected experience of working for a company. They will move their booty/cash to the company/shares that will offer them the most satisfaction/returns. But not until the risk of making the move (and having the stock take a nosedive) is mitigated by positive expectations. And this is why analysts have jobs. So yeah, it's all a matter of expectations and relative returns. Nobody needs to correct my overly simplistic explanation of the stock market.  I'm painting a picture here, kids.

I'm sure companies have pulled back on budgets, for things like bonuses and perks (which really should be perqs, but I digress). I'm sure that they think that people won't leave. The economy's in the crapper (just so we are all clear on what is going on in this here economy). And they may underestimate the benefit of keeping the best folks happy right now. They may overlook these performers (even those that have been asked to take on other people's work due to resource constraints) because they don't tend to be complainers (why do the whiners always seems to be the ones that you would be OK with letting walk out the door?).

Now consider that companies are already recruiting these folks, building pipelines of the best talent that they can't wait to pick off as positions open. My point is that there is going to be a feeding frenzy. It's going to be nuts. And whether you are an employee, a people manager or a recruiter, you need to plan ahead.

Employees: build your professional network, research companies and know where you would like to go in the future. Have a clearly articulated career plan and always...*always* take calls from recruiters at firms you would even consider in the future. No matter how much you like your company right now.

Managers: fight for your people expense budget. Now is not the time to short-change your best performers. And consider what additional rewards you can offer....extra time off, praise (and don't forget that these don't replace financial rewards and I mean the green kind). Give some thought to each person on your team and how you would feel if they walked out the door. OK, now ready, set, retain them. Start now.

Recruiters: if you haven't already been pipelining talent, you haven't been paying attention. So carry on.