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How Companies Are Destroying Their Talent

Mar 31, 2008
The baby boomers are leaving! The baby boomers are leaving! With Paul Revere quickness, word is spreading: As the baby boomers exit, intellectual capital and talent will be drained from companies at an unprecedented rate. The search for talent and "high performers" is about to go from "urgent" to "critical."

And therein sits the joke - and tragedy.

The Real Brain Drain

Yes, you may miss Joe "The Sr. Production Guy" as he leaves for Arizona, but his exit is not why your company might already be taking a huge 'talent-loss' hit. The biggest brain drain and loss of talent doesn't happen when people walk out your door; it happens every day because of a dysfunctional and outdated approach to leadership.

It happens all the time: Someone gets hired. They're excited. They prepare to do their best, to give their best - because they, like you, want to be great. And then the tragedy begins. With shocking efficiency the company shouts, "That's not how we do it here!" And like a dog trained by a slapped nose the new hire acquiesces and begins to act like everyone else. Which means they are no longer doing what you hired them to do: raise the bar for your company.

People are malleable; we conform and adapt for survival. One look at employee satisfaction rates or Gallup's disengagement research (over 70% of the workforce is disengaged) proves this is true. Companies hire the best - and then train them not to be great.

Steps to Destroying Company Talent

Every company is essentially looking for the same qualities when they hire. Beyond a desired skill set, everyone wants a person who:

1. is a self-starter,

2. makes good decisions, and

3. is accountable

Ironically, if you ask anyone if they possess the above qualities they'll answer that they do. And, of course, every person is right, because to varying degrees, we all possess these characteristics. Yet, these are the steps most companies take to destroy these talents.

1. Destroying the self-starter: The fact is most people lead by telling others what they want them to do. After being bombarded by commands the 'self-starter' realizes they are free to 'check-out' and dream about Friday afternoons. "Just wait until the boss tells us what to do," becomes their thinking. This leaves many wondering what happened to the new-hire's get-up-and-go attitude...when in reality their boss sapped it from them.

2. Destroying the decision maker: The talented new hire comes in eager to show their worth. But their ideas are met with, "That won't work here," and "We've tried that before. When the new hire does make a decision they are often drilled with "here's what you did wrong," and "we make decisions together here" responses. So the new kid on the block becomes a savvy veteran, learning to minimize risks by laying low.

3. Destroying accountability: The mantra of "hold people accountable" is shouted from the roof tops and so the bosses do just that - they force people to deliver. But productivity is a choice; people resist being forced to do anything, and so the minimalist mentality grows. Quickly, the new employee is robbed of their pride and self-worth...and they leave their best for the fantasy job that most will never realize.
About the Author
Stomp the Elephant in the Office employs the programs and concepts successfully implemented by Pathways to Leadership, Inc., formed by Steven Vannoy and Craig Ross. To find out how big the elephant in YOUR office is, visit Stomp the Elephant.
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