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Leadership Now

10 Ways To Lose Your Best Employees

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

[Image: Flickr user Kimberly Jones]

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.

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