Are you pushing your finest employees out the door without realizing it? If staff retention is an issue for your company, then you’ll need to think about what could be causing your top talent to look for other opportunities.

There are numerous ways that bosses and top management can drive star employees away without even realizing it. Understand that people don’t walk out on companies; they walk out on managers. These are three of the worst things a manager can do to destroy the loyalty of his top performers.

Use money as the only motivator

The biggest mistake employers make is thinking their employees are there just for the paycheck they receive at the end of the month. In the short run, money is a definite factor for retaining employees, but it can only remain a motivating factor for so long. If your staff does not find their work fulfilling and get the job satisfaction they desire each day, they’ll soon get bored.

This is especially true for your best, most talented employees. If your star employees can acquire new positions somewhere else that will give them greater responsibility, strong mentorship, increased recognition and new opportunities to learn and innovate, they may jump at the opportunity — even if the pay is not as high.

Focus on the wrong rather than the right

Employees might make mistakes, but blaming them for mistakes instead of providing constructive feedback and advice is an even bigger mistake on a manager’s part. Star employees are those who aren’t afraid to take risks. Recognize that taking successful risks can create massive beneficial change for your corporation. There will be times when plans and projects fall through; accept those mistakes as learning opportunities and move on. Your top talent will walk away if you focus more on their weak points than on their accomplishments.

Don’t bother to walk the walk

You’ve secured the title of manager, but if you think sitting back in your chair and delegating work is going to get the work done, you’re not in touch with reality. When the going gets tough and a key project is due, rolling up your sleeves and working overtime alongside your team shows your commitment and gains you respect. Star employees are looking for strong leaders and role models and are less likely to leave bosses and managers who are accessible, approachable and respectful.

Yes, managers need to be respectful to their employees. Set a good example, listen to your employees and genuinely make them feel you care about them, and they’ll stick with you through thick and thin.

If you distrust your employees, discourage innovation and creativity, ignore their advice and communicate poorly, they’ll start hunting for other positions. For more tips to help you keep your best employees (and not lose them to your competition), read “Ten Ways to Keep Your Star Employees,” in which I give practical, hands-on tips to retain your best talent.

Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 leadership coaches in the U.S. As an executive coach, he has worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Deloitte, Cisco Systems, Oracle, The Ritz-Carlton, Citibank, Microsoft and many more. He is the author of seven books, including “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.”

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6 responses to “3 sure-fire ways to lose your top talent”

  1. Another contributing factor to the flight of top talent who have relocated from other states/communities is the failure to consider the successful transition and acclimation of the executive AND the family. Community transition services (not real estate tours) are not only a high-value component of the recruitment process but also a critical enhancement of retention success. Consider it an "insurance policy" for the significant financial investment in recruiting top talent.

  2. You bring up a very good point, and I absolutely agree with you. When you relocate a new employee, you're not simply relocating the employee but the family as well. If a transition into a new community is not successful for the family, this can lead to unhappiness and stress in the employee's personal life. This can then negatively affect their work performance, as well as their retention. A family who is happy in their new community equals an employee who is much less likely to be looking elsewhere.

  3. Tom Gimbel says:

    These are great points, Joel. To play off the idea of using money as the only motivator, company culture is also a contrbuting factor in retaining top talent. It's important to cultivate a fun/engaging/welcoming environment for your employees. They are less likely to leave your organization if they look forward to coming to work each morning.

  4. A skeptic is someone who is reluctant to believe and care, a cynic is someone who refuses to believe and care.
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    However deep inside all skeptic and even most cynics is a deep ache to believe and care again, but to do so without the fear of being disappointed, betrayed or traumatized.
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