“If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates’, then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.” ~Dee Hock
"The employer generally gets the employees he deserves." ~J. Paul Getty
Organizations today face one of the toughest environments they have ever had for hiring and retaining top talent. It isn’t that top talent is difficult to find or that there is a shortage in any way, it’s that the top talent wants to be satisfied and fulfilled in their careers and they realize that they have options.
What this has done is leave leaders susceptible to losing their best and brightest if they. Luckily, the steps needed to retain the best aren’t excessive. In fact, you might consider them some of the basics of leadership. Unfortunately, it’s easy for a leader to slip in some of these areas. So be mindful of your own leadership when looking at the below reasons your best employees might choose to go elsewhere:
There’s no career development – High achievers want to achieve. That achievement can take many forms, but primarily encompasses career progression and acquiring new skills. If you don’t have a career path planned for your team members and a plan for learning the skills necessary to get there, then you leave them little choice but to carve their own path elsewhere.
Overwork – Emails on evenings, weekends and vacations. Random emergencies that require everyone to stay late. Turning down time off for “business reason.” Dropping the work of three people in their lap after layoffs. Your best employees are likely to have a better attitude towards this than most of your team (they at least like being busy and having the opportunity to be relied upon and learn new things), but what they require in trade is flexibility. The workforce of today expects to have a better work/life balance. The greater the work expectations, the more flexibility they require in working from home, appointments during the day, and time off when needed.
No recognition – Your poor performers require coaching and training; your best performers want recognition. Poor work and great work need to be treated differently. They aren’t “glory hounds”, but they do expect to see some acknowledgement of their great work. If they don’t get that acknowledgement, then they might rightly wonder why they don’t just slack off like others. Treating all employees the same regardless of performance has limits, and this is one of them.
You don’t follow through – Often the employee will tell you what they want/need to feel fulfilled and to grow in the department and organization. When a leader says they are going to do something about that, but doesn’t follow through its destroys the trust that the employee has that you are looking out for their best interests. Leaders who don’t follow through don’t care, and not following through has been the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for many employees.
Not fostering passion and purpose – More now than ever, high achievers attach self-identity to their job. Your team wants to feel like they are making an impact on the organization, and preferably the community as well. If you aren’t in an industry that could be classified as helping the community, you can always do volunteer work and team building. The most important thing is actually within the walls of the organization. Does each of your team members feel like they are vital to the success of the whole? If you paused at all, then you need to get this addressed.
No challenge – Your best and brightest will get bored very easily if you don’t engage them with challenging work occasionally. This can be a new project, some cross training in another job function, being a relief supervisor, anything. Boring jobs aren’t fulfilling or interesting.
Toxic environment – Life is too short to deal with a workplace that leaves you defeated, drained and demoralized at the end of the day. Your best employees are likely to do something about this sooner than your other team members, because they know that they have options. Whether it is a member of leadership or another department you need to shield them from, a particular coworker who brings everyone down, or just a general feeling of toxicity in the culture, your ability to deal with these successfully will go a long way to retaining employees good and great.
Nobody is held accountable – Taking pride in your work is something that great employees expect of themselves, their coworkers, and their leadership. There is no better way to undermine this sense of pride than not expecting excellence and holding everybody in the organization to that standard. Poor performers need to be held accountable or you drive your team to the lowest common denominator of performance.
No trust with boss – High achievers have little tolerance for a boss who micromanages their work, refuses to delegate tasks that could help them grow and blames the team for mistakes that were clearly their own. All of these behaviors destroy the trust between the employee and leadership. If you continue to move forward in your leadership with these traits, you likely don’t deserve your best employees.
No communication – This is the information age and people expect to be able to find answers to their questions and to receive updates on what is occurring in the organization. Your best employees are no different and because they have aspirations and goals for their career they feel a higher need to know what is going on so that they can make the correct course corrections and decisions. If you are keeping them in the dark you are starving them of the information they need, and making a smart employee stupid by forcing ignorance on them.
Organizations don’t need to lose their best employees, it really shouldn’t be that hard to keep them. But you need to address the things that make them leave. If you don’t you will not only lose employees, but you’ll likely find your own job in jeopardy as your workforce erodes and it gets more difficult to fulfill your responsibilities.
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