Many leaders talk about the value of talent, only to make the same talent-related mistakes over and over again. With all the emphasis on talent development, I find it interesting that so many companies struggle to retain top talent, when few things in business are as costly as unexpected talent departures. Here are some observations on behavior that might help, stop the talent door from continuing to revolve.
Ask any CEO if they have a process for retaining and developing talent and they’ll quickly answer in the affirmative, launching into a series of soundbites about their talent initiatives, the high-potentials in the nine-box and on and on.
There is frequently too much process built upon theory and not nearly enough practice built on experience.
When examining talent at any organization look at the culture, not the rhetoric – look at the results, not the commentary about potential [RE: “The Myth of Potential” by Mike Myatt].
Despite some of the delusional perspectives in the corner office, recent research shows that their employees report the following:
- More than 30% believe they’ll be working elsewhere inside of 12 months.
- More than 40% don’t respect the person to whom they report.
- More than 50% say they have different values than their employer.
- More than 60% don’t feel their career goals align with the plans of their employers.
- More than 70% don’t feel appreciated by their employer.
Those employers, therefore, who think they have everything under control may need to think again. Regardless of tenure, position, title, etc., employees who voluntarily leave, generally do so out of some type of perceived disconnect with leadership.
Here’s the thing – employees who are challenged, engaged, valued, and rewarded (emotionally, intellectually & financially) rarely leave, and more importantly, they perform at very high levels. Employers that miss any of these critical areas will find it is only a matter of time until their prime talent heads for the elevator.
The following 10 reasons talent leaves, provide an excellent starting place for learning to reverse the trend:
- You Failed to Unleash Their Passions: Smart companies align employee passions with corporate pursuits. Human nature makes it very difficult to walk away from areas of passion. Fail to understand this and you’ll unknowingly be encouraging employees to seek their passions elsewhere.
- You Failed to Challenge Their Intellect: Smart people don’t like to live in a dimly lit world of boredom. If you don’t challenge people’s minds, they’ll leave you for someone/someplace that will.
- You Failed to Engage Their Creativity: Great talent is wired to improve, enhance, and add value. They are built to change and innovate. They NEED to contribute by putting their fingerprints on design. Smart leaders don’t place people in boxes – they free them from boxes. What’s the use in having a racehorse if you don’t let them run?
- You Failed to Develop Their Skills: Leadership isn’t a destination – it’s a journey. No matter how smart or talented a person is, there’s always room for growth, development, and continued maturation. If you place restrictions on a person’s ability to grow, they’ll leave you for someone who won’t.
- You Failed to Give Them a Voice: Talented people have good thoughts, ideas, insights, and observations. If you don’t listen to them, someone else will.
- You Failed to Care: Sure, people come to work for a paycheck, but that’s not the only reason. In fact, many studies show it’s not even the most important reason. If you fail to care about people at a human level, at an emotional level, they’ll eventually leave you regardless of how much you pay them.
- You Failed to Lead: Businesses don’t fail, products don’t fail, projects don’t fail, and teams don’t fail – leaders fail. The best testament to the value of leadership is what happens in its absence – very little. If you fail to lead, your talent will seek leadership elsewhere.
- You Failed to Recognize Their Contributions: The best leaders don’t take credit – they give it. Failing to recognize the contributions of others is not only arrogant and disingenuous, but it’s just as good as asking them to leave.
- You Failed to Increase Their Responsibility: You cannot confine talent – try to do so and you’ll either devolve into mediocrity, or force your talent to seek more fertile ground. People will gladly accept a huge workload as long as an increase in responsibility comes along with its performance and execution.
- You Failed to Keep Your Commitments: Promises made are worthless, but promises kept are invaluable. If you break trust with those you lead you will pay a very steep price. Leaders not accountable to their people, will eventually be held accountable by their people.
When leaders spend less time trying to retain people, and more time trying to understand them, care for them, invest in them, and lead them well, talent retention takes care of itself.
Deborah Midanek Bailey
Deborah is a corporate director and long time restructuring professional.
Deborah has been directly involved in much of the extraordinary innovation that has taken place on Wall Street over the last few decades, and in handling the consequences of its excess. With solid knowledge of capital markets from all points of view and a long record of success in building and rebuilding companies from the bottom up, Deborah focuses relentlessly on defining transitions as positive processes. Not interested in merely preserving companies, organizations and jobs, instead she works to drive them to levels previously unimagined. She has led turnaround teams for diverse companies including Parmalat USA, Mississippi Chemical, and FINOVA. Earlier, she served as CEO of United Companies Financial Corporation and Standard Brands Paint.