Who are you calling core?
The heart of the strategy to win the talent war is to secure people's commitment by offering them a relational contract as well as meeting their transactional needs. These people make up the core. The starting point of implementing the strategy for the core is deciding who makes up this group. The answer is provided by considering two factors. First, the size and make-up of the group of people from whom the organization would like to have a commitment. Second, the number to whom a commitment can be made with the realistic and honest prospect of it being honoured. Comparing the two might well present a dilemma. The organization might like to include more people in the core than it is able to make a commitment towards. This dilemma needs to be confronted and resolved. Otherwise, the organization will be tempted to fudge the situation and tell all those from whom it wants a commitment that they are core without being able to honour the commitment in return. In due course, when tested, the organization's commitment to the core will be shown to be empty. The core will see that its members are treated with what amounts to the same attitude as the periphery. Being in the core will cease having any meaning and trust will be destroyed.
Resolving the dilemma can be achieved by scaling down the number the organization puts in the core. It can also be resolved by scaling up the overall price the organization is prepared to pay for having a core in terms of making commitments it will honour. However, the organization cannot simply write a blank cheque in terms of its commitments. People will see it for what it is, namely an empty promise. How the organization resolves the discrepancy will be influenced by its forecast of the future. Almost by definition, the further into the future the focus is, the vaguer the picture will become and so the organization will need to be more circumspect in terms of making commitments to its staff. This might lead responsible organizations to keep the core tight. The commitment is not gilt-edged. Clearly, there will be unforeseen events that will cause the most committed organization to have to shed people even from a tightly defined core in order to survive. This was the case for oil companies at the start of 1999 as the price of crude sank below $10 a barrel. Their difficulties could