10 ways to lose your best employees

Talent management all too often takes a back seat to other workplace priorities. Without your top performers, though, your organization will founder. Heed these warnings.

What could be more essential to organizational success and the corporate bottom line than talent?

Yet, many employees continue to be marginalized and neglected, often taking a back seat to the various other matters that occupy our workdays as leaders.

The problem seems pervasive.

While writing “The Talent Mandate: Why Smart Companies Put People First,” author Andrew Bennett spoke with a prominent business school professor who noted improvements and innovations in every area of business except talent management. The professor said no corporate function today lags as dramatically as how we manage the employees for which we are responsible.

That’s astonishing. It’s also lunacy when the “war for talent” continues to rage and employee costs represent a majority of corporate expenses.

The author suggests we keep doing the following if we want to free ourselves from our brightest, most dynamic, highest-potential employees:

1. Hire for the past, not the future. Choose talent based on what worked before, not on where the company is heading. Emphasize candidates’ narrow former experience over agility and adaptability in a fast-changing world.

2. Downplay values and mission. Send the signal that anything goes in pursuit of profit, making employees guess about what choices are truly acceptable. Fail to spend time articulating to your workers why they come to work every day and how the greater community benefits from their efforts.

3. Bungle the teams. Avoid mixing generations and skill sets, instead grouping like with like and producing stale, predictable solutions that excite no one.

4. Place jerks in management. Reward the old-fashioned, autocratic style that stifles unorthodox, creative thinking and feels threatened by fresh ideas, energy and dynamism.

5. Measure hours, not results. Keep an expensive cadre of stern enforcers busy with policing everybody. Don’t trust your talent to use their time wisely. Crack down on social media. Forbid personal activities during the workday, even as you continue to expect work to be conducted over the weekend as well.

6. Promote people straight up the ladder. Fail to give them exposure to different parts of the business through lateral moves or cross-training, giving them the sensation of being narrowed over time, rather than being broadened and improved.

7. Leave talent management to HR. Expect the staff who must deal with the minutiae of personnel issues to also be exceptional visionaries in hiring. Detach the C-suite from talent recruitment and retention, because it’s not their department.

8. Hoard information. Keep decision-making securely ensconced in the executive wing. Avoid empowering mid-tier managers or employees, lest they suddenly become entrepreneurial and unpredictable.

9. Don’t bother with training. It’s costly, and employees will probably jump ship with their new skills. Instead, have your workers do the same tasks over and over in the very same way.

10. Hire outsiders. After you’ve failed to train and develop your best people, follow it up by stifling their ambitions for increased responsibility. When they come to you and say, “I’m leaving,” express astonishment and outrage.

Michelle M. Smith is Vice President of Business Development at Salt Lake City-based O.C. Tanner. This article was originally published on O.C. Tanner’s ‘a’ Magazine blog.

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