Why Top Talent Leaves: Top 10 Reasons Boiled Down to 1 – Forbes.com

Why Top Talent Leaves: Top 10 Reasons Boiled Down to 1

 

Eric Jackson, a fellow Forbes blogger I follow and find both funny and astute, wrote a really spot-on post last month about why top talent leaves large corporations. He offered ten reasons, all of which I agreed with – and all of which I’ve seen played out again and again, over the course of 25 years of coaching and consulting.  The post was wildly popular – over 1.5 million views at this writing.

So why do we find this topic so interesting?  I suspect it’s because we’re genuinely curious: What would make a very senior executive – someone who most certainly has been courted by his or her organization and then paid huge sums of money to join – decide to pack it in?  Is it greed (an even richer offer down the street)?  Hubris? Short attention span?  Or do 1%ers actually leave jobs for the same reasons  as the average Joe or Josie?

According to Jackson (and, again, I agree with him) top talent does indeed leave for the same reasons everyone else does.  If I were to distill his ‘top ten reasons’ down to one, it’s this:

Top talent leave an organization when they’re badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.

About half of Eric’s ten reasons are about poor people management – either systemically, as in poor performance feedback, or individually, as in, my boss sucks.  And the other half are about organizational lameness: shifting priorities, no vision, close-mindedness.

It really is that simple. Not easy, mind you, but remarkably simple. If you want to keep your best people:

1) Create an organization where those who manage others are hired for their ability to manage well, supported  to get even better at managing, and held accountable and rewarded for doing so.

2) Then be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization – not only in terms of financial goals, but in a more three-dimensional way. What’s your purpose; what do you aspire to bring to the world? What kind of a culture do you want to create in order to do that?  What will the organization look, feel and sound like if you’re embodying that mission and culture?  How will you measure success?  And then, once you’ve clarified your hoped-for future, consistently focus on keeping that vision top of mind and working together to achieve it.

I’ve worked with client organizations that do those two things, and people stay and thrive.  I’ve worked with and observed client organizations that don’t – and it’s a revolving door.  And that’s true at all levels – not just for “top talent.”

It’s fascinating to me: Why don’t more CEOs and their teams make sure these two things happen in their organizations?  What do you think?

Comments
  • daburbdaburb 4 months ago

    “Why don’t more CEOs and their teams make sure these two things happen in their organizations?”

    Because they don’t get it. They’re either ignorant of the methodology or they simply don’t care. I’ve heard manager’s (not leaders) at my place of employment state succinctly, “If they don’t like the job, they can quit. There’s a line out the door for people that do want the job.” It’s about showing up, going through the motions and going home. The less time and effort spent between showing up and going home, the better. It’s also the lack of accountability on the part of senior management to get those folks out of the management positions – but since it was the senior management that hired them, you can imagine what happens. Nothing. We’re a ‘local government’ – if we were a private business, we’d be out of business.

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  • Author
    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 4 months ago

    Wow. Sadly, I think you’re absolutely spot on…way too many leaders are either unaware of the importance of these things or don’t care about anything more than their own job.

    Thanks for commenting –

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  • acmcfarlandacmcfarland 4 months ago

    The thin air in the C-Suite tends to cause people to forget the large impact that ‘soft’ skills have on organizations. They forget that investing in people is part of investing in a business.

    What is surprising is how often short term gains “won” through aggressive cost-cutting (e.g. salaries, benefits, training time, staff) actually undermine the very health and financial strength they are designed to support.

    A recent Gallup study proved a causal relationship between employee engagement and financial performance. Because the results indicate we must invest in our employees to reach our financial goals.

    http://bit.ly/aykG8L

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  • covenant22covenant22 4 months ago

    It is perhaps by coincidence, but the Forbes thought for the day banner that appeared when I linked to this article seems to cover the issue succinctly:

    “Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.”

    — Frank Leahy

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  • Author
    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 4 months ago

    I really think you’re right. I’ve noticed that even some of my CEO clients – who are, by and large, a pretty conscious group- fall prey to this.

    Great observation that all too often cost-cutting is counter-productive because it weakens the organization’s long-term ability to keep and grow talented staff.

    And thanks for the Gallup link – I’ll blog about it!

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    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 4 months ago

    Snap! ;-)))

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  • Author
    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 4 months ago

    I really agree. Too often, companies sort of “tick the right boxes,” but aren’t really committed to great management and leadership on a practical, day-to-day level.

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  • Himanshu Rai 2 months ago

    “People leave managers not companies.”

    And generally immediate supervisors are the prime reason. People are always ready to work hard in the conducive environment and can even compromise salaries for a stability. But when senior management don’t hear the voice of the employee below, the plot of disaster creeps in the team…

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  • Jim LagneseJim Lagnese 2 months ago

    It’s probably true of more than just top talent.

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  • Santino FedeSantino Fede 2 months ago

    I believe managers become managers for the wrong reason. For example the top sales person becomes a manager.

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  • Author
    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 2 months ago

    Yup – I agree. Thanks for commenting –

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  • Author
    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 2 months ago

    Yes – and the things you can do to keep top talent are the same things that keep everyone else engaged and productive, too.

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  • Author
    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 2 months ago

    Couldn’t agree more – too often, senior management seems to believe that if someone is good at doing something, he or she will automatically be good at managing others to do that thing!

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  • ryanbhelaryanbhela 2 months ago

    Erika, thanks for condensing those ideas. When people leave my organization, it’s not about them, it’s about me. To answer your question about why senior leaders don’t make sure your two conditions for retention are met more often:

    A colleague of mine proposed that every career has three phases: contributor, leader, and owner. I believe that too many people take (or are put in) manager roles before they have developed the EQ and other soft leadership skills to manage well (your first condition).

    I also believe that too many people take (or are put in) owner roles before they have truly answered your questions on purpose and culture. The churn we feel in organizations comes from learning those answers through tough experiences. For more on how a collaborative coaching style can help boost retention, try this: http://wp.me/p2b9ZX-1S

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  • Charles Baughman, PHRCharles Baughman, PHR 2 months ago

    I couldn’t agree more and see those reasons as primary more specifically for the X and Y generations. Still, I think organizations of all sizes struggle with the issues of bringing relevance, recognition and reward forward for all their employees. Particularly in a period when businesses are tentative about their financial standing, I see business owners focused on the trees when their employees want a vision of the forest and to know how to navigate it.

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  • Author
    Erika AndersenErika Andersen, Contributor 2 months ago

    What a great comment – thank you! I love the contributor/leader/owner model, and agree that if people are put in the ‘leader’ and ‘owner’ roles without the necessary skills and mindset, it creates the negative conditions we’re talking about.

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