Leadership and Talent Wars

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Underneath all the changes in society is the deep desire to be heard and acknowledged.

Has anyone you know ever received a gold watch for 30 years of employment? Do you know anyone who even stayed at a company for 30 years? Anyone who left a job in three years? Longevity at work has gone the way of typewriters.

Along with smart phones, email and teleconferencing, how we relate to each other has changed dramatically. Picture a bride and groom walking back down the church aisle after their vows and one guest saying to another, “And they said it would never last!” That scene is played out in organizations worldwide. Job hopping is seen as a sport by many of the best and brightest employees. Yet, there are some evergreen principles that if put into play can move the game of work toward commitment and loyalty. It will take more than just good chemistry to keep that bride and groom together, and it will take more than a great salary to keep your high-potential employees with you.

The problem is worth thinking through. After all, the cost of replacing employees is three to four times their salary. With top tier talent, it is even higher. “Show me the money” is a good starting point for cultivating your staff, but if you end it there you will have a revolving door.

Talent retention absolutely starts from the top. How the vision of the company is lived is paramount. What are the values? How do they show up? Is the mission statement simply on the wall or is it found in the lives of the leaders? Do people really matter?

Several years ago a group of students from a prestigious law school sent an open letter to their colleagues warning them against interviewing at certain well known firms. The reasons stated included loss of individuality, becoming just a number, and being “worked to death.”

Engaging employees is simply good business. It is about helping individuals “practice safe stress” so they can speak out and have a say in their career paths without feeling that they are merely numbers. It is about training senior managers in the psychology of relationships. Health care costs lessen when we learn to resolve conflicts faster and smarter.

With these practices, your organization’s culture becomes one of loyalty and collaboration having:

  • EXPECTATIONS for clarity: offer a clear understanding of the job and standards they are expected to meet; discuss organizational operations and make sure they truly understand.
  • EMPHASIS on culture: focus on quality of teams working together instead of individuals as a lone ranger; recognize team achievements.
  • EDUCATION for growth: invest in leadership programs along with those that enhance specific skills; cross-pollinate where possible.
  • EMPOWERMENT for maturity: give opportunities to make decisions; let them know they are trusted and mistakes are fixable.
  • EVALUATION for promotion: praise, challenge, acknowledge with honesty and compassion.

Underneath all the changes in society is the deep desire to be heard and acknowledged. I believe there is more to be said for staying the course and working through challenges rather than going from place to place. Maybe there are no more gold watches, however a pendulum swing back to longevity for the right reasons will create a deeper and more effective long term work environment.


Additional Reading

Staffing for Operational Excellence

Developing Leadership in the Digital Age


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