The HR department typically bears responsibility for designing organization-wide engagement tactics and retention strategies, but the reality is this is everyone’s job. It’s a common belief that individuals don’t leave a job, they leave their boss. Poor management and leadership drive out top talent who are easily recruited away in today’s candidate-driven employment environment. It’s not just headhunters and great recruiters that managers should worry about these days. A veritable candy store of employment alternatives awaits your least satisfied/engaged employees, and leaders need to consider the risk this poses to the organization.
Let’s take a step back and identify the risks. Naturally, headhunters and recruiters have always played an active role in recruiting top talent away from companies. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is how easily they can reach your employees. In the past, the front desk/secretary at your company was the gatekeeper of information and worked to ensure recruiters’ calls never made it to the individual. Today, you likely don’t even have a single person answering the corporate phone, and everyone’s job title/employment history is easily attainable from social media. Finding your top talent isn’t a challenge. The challenge is identifying and offering that one thing that would make them leave your company. So, what is that thing?
Most managers believe it comes down to pay and benefits. And sometimes that’s true. No one will stay in a job where they feel undervalued. They will stay just long enough until they find someone who is willing to pay them what they’re worth. Same goes with benefits. If someone is unhappy with their benefits, they’ll stay long enough that it takes them to shop around for a better package. But even the value of traditional benefits is decreasing.
During my last few business trips, I’ve used Lyft and Uber heavily and have spotted a trend. In most cities, the drivers aren’t former cab/shuttle/bus drivers who decided they prefer the flexibility of working for themselves. These drivers were all former high-level corporate managers or individual contributors who became so fed up with the job that they quit. My last few rides were with a former school district superintendent, marketing director, professor, and an electrical engineer. These individuals didn’t post their resume. They didn’t search job boards. In fact, most of them didn’t even give 2 weeks notice to their employer. They cleaned out their desk and just walked away. They didn’t worry about what they’d do next, because they didn’t have to.
This is a foreign concept to most employers. I’ve actually heard managers defend their reason for not budgeting in a raise for an employee “because she needs our benefits; she won’t leave us anyway. But I’ll keep an eye on her sick days just in case.” In other words, that manager could care less whether the employee was paid fairly, felt valued or satisfied. He was just confident that she needed something they offered and that would guarantee her commitment to stay. And in the off chance she did decide to interview with another company, he was arrogantly confident that he would be able to identify that by the use of her sick days. It was appalling.
But with today’s gig economy, those days are over. Employees don’t need to work themselves to death for a steady paycheck. They don’t have to put up with poor leadership. They don’t have to rely on employer-offered benefits. And they don’t even need to stay with their current job while they search for a new one. If your employee quits today, they can make money tomorrow from hundreds of different freelance/on-demand offerings from Uber and Lyft to walking dogs, renting houses or even clothes, making crafts, or being a virtual assistant. The opportunities are endless and aren’t restricted to entry level workers. Skilled labor is just as in demand in the freelance gig economy as service jobs are.
This puts managers and leaders in the hot seat. Every individual who leaves their current job without an offer in hand from another company is a person who believes life is too short to deal with poor leadership. Leaders who fail to engage, empower and develop the talent on their team are particularly at risk for experiencing a revolving door of talent/replacements. It’s a great time for a gut check. If every workplace benefit disappeared tomorrow, how many team members would stay because they are passionate about the work, committed to the organizational vision, and/or enjoy working for you? If that number is less than 100%, then the war for talent is happening on your battlefield and you need a new game plan.