Many companies only start worrying about talent retention when they start bleeding top talent and cannot hire the people they want.
We have found that people leave companies because of the attraction of a new job or the prospect of sometime outside the workforce, which ‘pulls’ them, on other occasions they are ‘pushed’ due to dissatisfaction in their present jobs to seek alternative employment. Sometimes it may be a mixture of both push and pull factors.
For another group the reasons for leaving are explained by domestic circumstances outside the control of any employer, as is the case when someone migrates or relocates with their spouse or partner.
Every company faces the problem of talented employees suddenly leaving their organisation. Often it is due to better pay, a bad boss, or the new company having all the right systems in place or offering employee-friendly HR policies, or a spanking new office, or the very best in technology or simply, or just for personal reasons.
Our research shows that if a company is losing top talent, you should look to their immediate supervisor. More than any other single reason, he may be the reason people stay in the organisation or the reason why they quit, taking their knowledge, experience and contacts with them. Many times, straight to competition.
Authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman many years ago in their groundbreaking book ‘First, Break all the Rules’ came up with the famous theory that “people leave managers not companies”.
So much money is being spent today on initiatives to retain good people – in the form of better pay, stay bonuses, options, better perks and better training, reward and recognition programmes – when, in the end, the turnover of top talent in a company could be a supervisor issue.
Therefore, if a company is bleeding talent, look first to your top management. Are they driving your key people away? Beyond a point, at very senior levels a top employee’s primary need has less to do with money and more to do with how they are treated and how valued they feel. Much of this depends directly on the immediate supervisor.
A Fortune magazine survey a few years ago found that nearly 75 per cent of employees have suffered at the hands of difficult superiors. Of all the workplace stressors, a bad boss is possibly the worst, directly impacting the emotional health and productivity of employees.
HR experts say that of all the abuses, employees find public humiliation the most intolerable and one of the main causes for people to leave. The first time an employee is abused, an employee may not leave, but a seed of frustration is planted. The second time, that seed gets strengthened. The third time, he starts looking for another job.
When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression, for example by digging their heels in and slowing things down or by doing only what they are told to do and no more or by even omitting to give the boss crucial information when it is badly needed.
It is therefore good for a company to annually assess the cost of losing key talent. For a start there’s the cost of finding a replacement, then the cost of training the replacement, then the cost of not having someone to do the job in the meantime and the loss of clients and contacts the person had with the industry. Also, every person who leaves a company becomes an ambassador for the company.
(The writer is CEO of HR Cornucopia.)