The ‘Real’ Reason Top Talent Leaves Organisations

Posted on September 2nd, 2012 | No Comments


Contrary to what’s published in company Staff Turnover reports, the ‘real’ reason top talent leave organisations is down to poor leadership. And this manifests itself in many forms, not just an ineffective manager.

Having worked in recruitment and HR for many years, I would hear first-hand from candidates and employees the ‘real’ reasons they left, or were thinking of leaving the company where they worked. And yet when it came to completing ‘leavers surveys’ or attending an exit interview, very rarely would they speak their truth for fear or repercussion or ‘rocking the boat’.

Instead, numerous statistics and reports are produced within organisations and by recruitment companies, citing other reasons. Now don’t get me wrong, these reasons are plausible however often a disguise for the ‘real’ reason.

In researching for a keynote speech I delivered recently for a leading international recruitment company, I was intrigued by the published statistics on staff turnover within the Australian Marketing industry (source – They predicted staff turnover would be 48% within the next 12 months, and that a further 26% of employees are passively looking too. Suggesting that 7 out of 10 people are at risk of leaving!

Has that last sentence sunk in yet? What questions does that raise for you as a Leader or HR Professional? Not only is this a costly exercise for an organisation, there are many other intangible impacts – brand reputation, market share, staff morale, etc.

But lets put that to one side for now, what I’m really interested in are the reasons why. The top 3 listed in the Seek data were:

  1. Opportunity to learn – career development, training to up-skill
  2. Gain seniority – seeking promotion / additional responsibility
  3. Improve salary – appropriate recognition and reward

Interestingly, no mention of ineffective management, poor company culture or lack of clear vision! But then again, organisations don’t report on these reasons do they? Either because they are unaware (leavers withholding that information) or they choose to omit it from the report (often disguised as “personal reasons”). However, when you delve deeper into those Top 3 it’s interesting what you find.

So what are the real reasons?

In preparing my keynote “Leadership Excellence: Impact on Talent Acquisition and Retention”, I came across a number of studies, one in particular caught my attention: Eric Jackson’s Top 10 Reasons Why Large Companies Fail To Keep Their Best Talent. 

When you analysis Eric’s reasons they can be summarised into ONE: Top talent leave an organization when they’re badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.

Roughly half of Eric’s reasons are about poor people management and the other half are about organizational lameness: shifting priorities, no vision, close-mindedness. So, can you see how leadership excellence has a massive impact on talent acquisition and retention?

The reality of the situation is this:

  • It’s becoming harder to attract, retain and develop talented people
  • Top talent need to be led and managed differently
  • They want workplace flexibility and development opportunities
  • There is a disconnect between HR policies and workplace reality
  • Employees don’t speak up for fear of repercussions
  • 7 out of 10 employees are at risk – ouch!

So, what’s the solution to most of these challenges…..?

Design a Leadership Excellence program that incorporates:

  1. Clear vision & strategy – great leaders and organisations know their purpose (Why). They are passionate about it, it’s inspiring and employees buy into this.
  2. Be inspirational & motivating – great leaders inspire others to achieve amazing things, they reduce fear, increase confidence and mobilise potential – employees want to follow them.
  3. Effective Communication – great leaders and organisations ask rather than tell, they listen, provide timely feedback and encourage it. They embrace the difficult conversations (courageous).
  4. Strong interpersonal skills – great leaders connect with their staff through rapport, empathy, behavioural flexibility, adaptable management style, can do attitude….essentially they are emotionally intelligent / self aware!
  5. Embody strong company culture and values – live and breathe it, walk the talk. This creates strong employee engagement and loyalty.
  6. Recognize, reward and empower staff  – understands and encourages their staffs aspirations / motivators / values, which drives productivity and increases profitability.
  7. Develop strong teams – right people doing right roles, clear succession planning, and knows that people drive the business. This creates improved company performance / results.

Should you recognise that there is room for improvement within your organisation or your own leadership development, please contact me to discuss the programs on offer.

And in closing, I would like to leave you with quote to ponder: “If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don’t have to manage them” – Jack Welch

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