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.”