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Gutsy Leaders Anticipate the Future and
Hang On Tight to Talent

by Jackie & Kevin Freiberg

Okay, so hereís the pointed question; How many of your employees do you think are interested in leaving their jobs? Well the shocking truth is based on national surveys conducted by the Saratoga Institute, Spherion and Randstad Staffing agencies. Believe it or not, more than half, 51% of the US workers surveyed are interested in leaving their jobs and 75% of them want to make the change within the next year! Hereís the clincher, if you think finding talented people is hard now just give it a couple more years, it could be near impossible!

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting a major talent shortage, they estimate that by 2010 there will be about 167 million jobs to fill and only 157 million workers to fill those open positions. With all this data in mind we think it is critical that companies get serious about doing whatever they can to hang on tight to talented people, if not, you may not be able to replace them.

So what is it going to take to hang on to the talent you have?

In the aftermath of 9/11 and with the increasing number of corporate ethics scandals being brought to light, people are continually re-evaluating life/work priorities. The rules have changed and employees are bringing a different set of expectations to work. Again, national surveys show that people in general are placing a huge priority on these things:
  • Family first.
    Less people are willing to put family on hold for career goals.
  • Fulfilling work.
    At the end of the day people want to feel like the gifts and talents they offer to the company actually make a difference. Bottom line they want to engage in WORK and PROJECTS THAT MATTER!
  • Flexibility.
    People want the freedom to take care of lifeís issues and challenges when they happen. Guess what, life doesnít JUST happen before 8 am, after 5 pm and on the weekends. Life happens when life happens! People want to work for a boss who is willing to give them the flexibility to live it! Employees want the opportunity to participate in things like FLEXTIME, TELECOMUTING, ONSITE DAYCARE and COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECTS. Unfortunately 75% of those surveyed said their companies do not offer them!
  • Good Relationship.
    With as much time as people are spending at work these days, this shouldnít come as a surprise, people want to LIKE their work team.
  • Communication.
    People want and need information. They want to know the good, the bad, AND they want to know what you donít know. Letís face it, people are paranoid and rightly so after the World Com, Enron, Tyco and Andersen debacles. Donít hold back, communicate like crazy!
What do we know about the key retention factors in light of the heightened expectations people are bringing with them into the work environment? In other words, what will help you hang on to the talent youíve currently got? Once again we lean on the survey data. Traditionally, money and earning potential are not top motivators. Similarly, they are not the top retention factors either. Compensation falls to fourth place. The top three retention factors are:
  • Relationship with immediate supervisor
  • Culture
  • Training and continuing education
This is powerful information for any company that wants to give its people a compelling reason to want to return to work each day. It should come as no surprise that the most important factor influencing an employeeís satisfaction at work is their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Leadership is critical! But, if leadership is first, why is it that when you conduct your exit interviews people will typically tell you they are leaving for more money, or a better compensation package? Hey, itís a whole lot easier to talk about money than it is to say, Iím leaving because I donít like you!Ē

Culture is vitally important. But, if you have created a great work environment that tries to meet current day employee expectations, it isnít enough. You can have a great corporate culture, an impressive corporate reputation, and be on the best or most admired lists, but if you hire a person who is a lousy leader, it can be disastrous. Remember, talented people will go to work for great companies but they will always leave because of a BAD BOSS! The only reason to be a leader (to hire a leader) is to serve and if you are not good at serving then you should not be in a leadership position.

Training and education are also key. Employees want to continually stretch, grow and develop. When you provide opportunities for this to happen, you are accomplishing some very powerful things. Honing talent, building confidence and gaining loyalty AND isnít that what your company needs too?

SAS Institute is one of the companies highlighted heavily in our GUTS book. It is one of the most successful privately held software companies in the world. They have taken gusty leadership to a new level when it comes to hanging on tight to talent and preparing for the future. Most IT companies have either downsized, right-sized or froze hiring all together. But SAS Institute did the GUTSY thing, theyíre hiring like crazy! SAS has been bulking-up on talent and taking advantage of the talented people who have, for one reason or another, been left out on the streets. SAS has increased its staff by about 17% in the last three years and attrition has never exceeded 5% in its 27-year history!

Be gutsy, surround yourself with gifted talent, do whatever you can to give them a compelling reason to stay and get the heck out of their way.

Copyright Jackie & Kevin Freiberg. All Rights Reserved.

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