First-Hand Observations and What Not to Do as a Fortune 100 Employer
I spent 11 and a half years at a company that not only ranked as one of Fortune 100, a category even more elite than those in Fortune 500, but it prided itself in a culture of caring for its people first and foremost.
Yet I watched in shock at the once amazing company culture dissipate, with innumerable mistakes from upper management leading to the best of its talent walking out the door. The sad part is this: This didn’t need to happen. The talent did not exactly want to leave. They loved this place until they didn't. Most felt regret and frustration at being left no choice but to leave.
This is not just poor decision making on the part of the company, it is also extremely expensive on their bottom line. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in training and development of their top talent, then through the inconsiderate and shallow decision-making, they break that trust and loyalty in an instant, opening the floodgates of fantastic talent to walk out the door, and often, walk right through the doors of their competition.
In the book, "Love'em or Lose'em: Getting Good People to Stay", the authors tell it to you straight:
"The High Cost of Talent Loss: The numbers are startling if you’re willing—and savvy enough—to run them."
My ex-employer wasn't savvy or didn't care. What about you?
While my peers and colleagues - the majority of the talent who walked out - are far better off in the hands of employers who appreciate, recognize and value them, it leaves two questions on the table:
- Why would a smart company actually cause its best and brightest to leave after heavily investing in them?
- Why would they not protect this invaluable asset or at the very least, keep it away from their fierce competition?
The answers are complex. Often, they may not know better. My ex-employer notwithstanding, I give most employers the benefit of a doubt. They don't know everything they need to do to keep talent in-house for the long-term. Let's find out how you can do that well, shall we?
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Over the years since leaving my corporate job and working as an executive coach with successful and driven professionals, it is clear to me that amazing companies are out there, doing the right things, truly caring about their people and creating the environment and the culture that nurtures talent rather than squashes it.
The cost of losing talent is not only on the financial sheets. The negative impact contributes to declining employee morale and promoting a culture of gossip, doubt, and more attrition. Poor management may choose to turn a blind eye to such obvious signs, but I'm not speaking to them here. I'm speaking to smart management that wants to build a worthwhile workplace and thriving culture for tomorrow's talent.
I'm speaking to you if you are building a company based on the core values you share with your employees and if you believe that the right people are an investment and an asset. That they are indispensable to you and your future.
How to Stop Losing Your Top Talent to Competition: 8 Things that Keeps Talent Long Term
The thing about talent is that it's not stupid. It's smart, super smart! That's why you want them onboard in the first place. But that also means you can't backstab and manipulate your talent without them noticing.
If you are an employer struggling with keeping talent in-house long-term, chances are that you are not aware of all the top motivators. Your intentions are in the right place. You're probably doing some - even most - of the right things, but still sabotaging your efforts by not doing the other essentials.
Here are 8 areas of employer focus if you want to keep your talent in-house long-term and far away from the claws of your competition:
1. Mentor Your Talent:
Most employers just send their talent to some training course or some new-hire special program and then let them figure it out on their own. The freedom aspect is great, and most appreciate having the flexibility to find their way around. At the same time, consider coaching and mentoring your talent on a regular basis by more senior employers or managers. Smart people love mentors and mentoring is free for you as a company. Get your senior employers or mangers with time on their hands to offer mentoring. Not only does it make your talent feel good, it has also proven to be more loyal and advance further in their careers.
2. Challenge Your Talent:
Some of the biggest complaints I hear from my corporate clients is that they are bored, bored out of their minds with the mundane tasks at their jobs. You are a company! You have complex problems that you need solutions for. You are here to change the world in your own way and yet you assign mind-numbing dull tasks to your top talent. No wonder they want to pull their hair out or just walk out the door. No wonder you lose them! For God's sake, challenge them!
3. Put Your Talent on a Mission:
Don't just work them hard. Put them on a mission. Most employees who leave feel disillusioned. Why? Because they thought they'd be part of a mission, a goal toward a worthy cause, a vision they heard at your company meeting or on their first job interview. But they feel just like a cog in a machine, not seeing or knowing the bigger picture. Is it any wonder that they lose motivation? Is it any curiosity that they have no desire to rally around the company mission at the annual meeting? You need to put your talent on a mission, and the sign of success is when they feel they are on a mission. You can see it, feel it and hear it. Until you do, you are at risk of losing them.
4. Value Your Talent:
We're not talking money yet, that's coming later. We're talking basic show of value and appreciation to your top talent. This can be a simple email after a tough project, a personal stop at their desk after a long night of hard work, a phone call to say a thank you for that weekend job you pulled, and a day off for working all weekend, without it counting against their PTO. Value comes in many shapes and forms, and the companies who master this keep their talent for decades! Become one of them.
5. Pay Your Talent Well:
Companies can be notoriously cheap with compensating their employees, even their top talent. It's funny they blow millions on expensive consultants in big suits and fancy titles and they don't take care of their own employees. Pay your talent well. Pay them better than your competition would. You've already invested in them through training programs, why not take care of them now that you are getting your own ROI? This is one place where cuts in budget make you bleed later.
6. Trust Your Talent:
The smartest leaders know that they are not all that smart, that they don't have all the answers. All they need to do, however, is to surround themselves with the right people, and they will look like genius. That's where your talent comes in. Trust them to make decisions. Trust them to have your best interest at heart. Trust them. They won't let you down.
7. Empower Your Talent:
Don't insult your talent with small projects of no consequence. Don't insult their intelligence with assigning them to menial tasks where not only is their time wasted, but so is yours. You can milk them for all they know, and they'd be glad for it. Increase their responsibilities. They will respond favorably to being responsible and accountable for worthwhile projects, and you will sleep more soundly at night knowing that things are in good hands.
8. Promote Your Talent:
This is the last straw that breaks the camel's back when it comes to talent walking out the door. The over-promise and under-delivery. The fact that you say you will take care of them, and promote them and then you back out of your word with lousy excuses and lack of honest communication. Talent watches what you do, not what you say. When you as an employer are not forthcoming, when your word is not reliable, and when you prefer secrecy and politics to your people, your talent stops caring about you. Why? Because they see that you have stopped caring about them. Promote when you say you'll promote, up the compensation before they start asking, and if your hands are tied, then opt for an authentic honest chat to explain clearly to deliver your "not yet" like a true professional. Your talent will appreciate it and may just decide to stick around.
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