10 Ways To Lose Your Best Employees

Want to hold tight to your talent? Don't do these things!

In the course of writing The Talent Mandate, I spoke with a prominent business school professor who told me that no corporate function lags behind today so dramatically as talent. He sees improvements and innovations in every area except in the vital matter of managing people. That’s astonishing--and it’s also lunacy at a time when people costs tend to be upward of 50 percent of a company's expenses. What could be more vital than talent to the bottom line? And yet the people in our employ continue to be neglected, taking a backseat to the various other matters that occupy our workdays.

Want to unload your most dynamic, highest-potential employees? Keep doing these things:

1. Hire for the past, not the future.

Choose talent based on what worked before, not on where the category is heading. Emphasize candidates’ narrow former experience over a more generalized, nimble agility to adapt to 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.

3. Bungle the teams.

Avoid mixing generations and skill sets, instead grouping like with like and producing stale and predictable solutions that excite nobody—but might be safer.

4. Place jerks in management.

Reward the old-fashioned, autocratic style that stifles unorthodox, creative thinking and feels threatened by youth 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 nine to five, even as you expect work to be conducted over the weekend.

6. Promote people straight up the ladder.

Fail to give them exposure to different parts of the business through lateral moves. Thereby give them the sensation of being narrowed over time, not broadened.

7. Leave talent to HR.

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

8. Hoard information.

Keep decision-making securely ensconced in the airless bunker of the executive wing. Avoid empowering mid-tier 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 same way.

10. Hire outsiders.

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

If this sounds at all familiar, you’d better hope your competitors are following the same game plan.

--Andrew Benett is global president of Havas Worldwide and global chief strategy officer of Havas Creative Group. His newest book, The Talent Mandate: Why Smart Companies Put People First was released by Palgrave Macmillan on September 17.

[Image: Flickr user Kimberly Jones]

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53 Comments

  • Zack Oliver

    I know it's to be expected, but my old manager at a Barnes and Noble fit every applicable description of mismanagement. The woman was crazy too. But she didn't mind declining customer service results, and didn't care that every nice talented person left. She found a niche talent pool in the sober living crowd that lived around our location. These are people that need a job for stability and are willing to put up with a terrible manager. She went thru a few dozen of these employees in a year or so. Pretty gross to work with her. But since managers are paid bonuses based on meeting a 'plan,' she hired new cheap workers, didn't train them, and cut hours to below the bare minimum to appear to have profit. We probably could make the company more money but customers don't want to go to B&N where books cost too much and the customer service sucks. Oh well

  • Toni Hanson

    This is not the best writing style to convey information. The double negative statements are confusing.

  • Right Wired

    11. Hire sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and cousins of board members and executives, regardless of how incompetent they are. Refuse to fire them when they screw up.

  • Teresa Rothaar

    This list is incomplete. There should also be an entry for, "Eat Valium like candy," and "Fire your best employee so you can make your live-in girlfriend work for you for free."

  • Paula Ewanich

    Had to read a couple of times, then the moment of Yes on every one! I am an HR professional, and I know it is easy to offload to us as there are so many more important things to do, i.e. develop, win business. For all HR teams - managers own their decisions and actions, including who to hire and how they will retain. Our big value add is coaching them on this skill set and allowing them to own results

  • sharon

    Love when you win all these awards set by them and they see your making too much $ and decide to move you into a new position where you get to start fresh and use your talents.

  • Emily Gable

    Couldn't agree more with every point in this article. The first place I worked out of college employed all of these principles, if that's what they can be considered, and the turnover rate was extraordinarily high. No one was happy and everyone complained about everything . . . every single day. It didn't help that if someone was two minutes late they got scrutinized and made aware that they were being monitored.

  • Joe DiNardo

    I'd agree with most of these except 7. Depending on company size, getting the C-Suite too involved with hiring can be a HUGE mistake.

  • pawelek

    #11. Don't use new technology, don't buy new tools and toys. Leave it to another 10 years maybe technology turn a circle :D

  • Tarik Taman

    Andrew, your no-holds-bar list of ten will be recognized by everyone. As a cringe-worthy reminder of how we typically deal with talent. But you missed one point off the list - number eleven. Hire people like yourself. There are two reasons why recruiting mini-me’s is bad for business. First, you’re restricting the flow of new ideas. If new recruits have the same social, educational and life experiences as you, you’re missing out on other ways of understanding the world which will help your organisation to innovate or avoid disaster in the future. Second, recruiting people with homogenous ideas and experience sends a clear message to the organization: to succeed, you should stifle your innovation and be like everyone else. No organization today can succeed like that.

  • Mosaub Al Masri

    Great article :):) what you wrote in here is what really happening at most of company's around the world

  • Thom Hoffman

    Love these. I just worked for Cedar Fairs LLC and they need to have your book sent to them. I am an entertainment professional and tried to work in their entertainment division and many, many of the listed things here were being practiced. We were passed asside and some costumes were bought from another park when the profession staff thought we were going to build them. I went to my supervisor and the entertainmen head and told them, "This is why you can't keep good people here." "You have to trust your construction team." So I have found a new job at a professional theatre that does exactly what your listed book implies to do. I am no longer or will ever be an employee of Cedar Fairs LLC.

  • Anya

    #11: Leave remote employees twisting in the wind and expect miracles from them.

    My most recent employer hired me for a position at a satellite office in one state while the management I answered to was in another. My first red flag should've been the fact that this office consisted of myself and one other person. My second one should've been the fact that training consisted of weekly hour long online presentations. I essentially had to teach myself an industry I'd had no previous exposure to, and I had to teach myself skills that would've covered multiple positions at any other company. At the same time, I was expected to generate sales and manage accounts for a territory that covered multiple states. Despite all of this, I was able to make the office profitable and meet my sales quota.

    I lasted one year. Management could best be described as indifferent until they decided to "shake things up" and employ what could only be called an irrational scorched earth strategy at the C-Level. I'm on the hunt again. This time I intend to find a more stable company to work for.

  • Susan

    This was insightful but made one think a little more when reading through the sarcasm... when you think about how it is written it seems to express how employees feel.