It amazes me that there is a lot of talk at senior level about how to secure the best talent with continuing strategies on enticing the right person on board. Only to make the same mistakes over and over again once they are employed? Few things in business are as costly and disruptive as unexpected talent departures, many organisation toil over the hiring process but completely overlook retention. I would like to share some observations and insights on how to reduce and hopefully stop the talent door from revolving.
Ask any CEO if they have a process for retaining and developing talent and they’ll quickly answer in the affirmative. They immediately launch into a series of idioms about the organisations strategic plan and talent initiatives, yada yada yada. All great in theory but is it working?
When examining the talent at any organization importantly we must look at the culture, not the rhetoric. Look at the results, not the commentary about potential. Despite some of the delusional perspective in the big corner office, when we interview the employees of companies that have a poor retention record, here are some of the common things they tell us:
- They believe they’ll be working someplace else inside of 12 months.
- Some don’t respect the person they report to.
- A lot say they have different values than their employer.
- Very often they don’t feel their career goals are aligned with the plans their employers have for them.
- The most common complaint is they don’t feel appreciated or valued by their employer.
So, for all those employers who have everything under control, you better start re-evaluating. There is an old saying that goes; “Employees don’t quit working for companies, they quit working for their bosses.” 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. However if you miss any of these critical areas, it’s only a matter of time until they head for the Headhunter.
Here are some of the reasons why large companies fail to retain talent.
- 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.
- 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?
- Failed To Develop Their Skills: Leadership isn’t a destination – it’s a continuum. 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.
- Failed To Give Them A Voice: Talented people have good thoughts, ideas, insights, and observations. If you don’t listen to them, I can guarantee you someone else will.
- Failed To Care: Sure, people come to work for a pay check, 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.
- 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.
- 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 as also just as good as asking them to leave.
- Failed To Increase Their Responsibility: You cannot confine talent – try to do so and you’ll either devolve into mediocrity, or force your talent seek more fertile ground. People will gladly accept a huge workload as long as an increase in responsibility comes along with the performance and execution of said workload.
- Failed To Keep 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.
It’s important to spend less time trying to retain people, and more time trying to understand them, care for them, invest in them, and lead them well; the retention thing would take care of itself. Good Luck,