“You won’t believe how many jobs I’ve had over my lifetime,” I said to my son with a smile.
“Oh really, how many?” he asked.
My wife chimed in with, “Ya, they’ve had so many, we need to write them all down!” She then proceeds to grab a pen and paper.
That night over dinner my wife had me recount every job I’d had while she recorded them in order on a scrap piece of paper.
She knew I started my first job at the age of 14 and the list of jobs I had thereafter was loooong. It was somewhat amusing to her that I had worked for so many employers.
At first this fun little exercise was simply me recounting each and every small and large organization I ever worked for. I felt as though I was simply participating to satisfy my wife and son’s curiosity.
But, once the list was complete and I looked it over a few times myself, I was transported back to each and every experience; to the coworkers that left an impression on me, the managers I worked for, the culture of the organizations, and what it felt like to work for all of those different organizations.
Needless to say, some very enlightening reflections were revealed.
Here are 4 reasons your organization might be losing top talent and actions steps that leadership can take to stop this.
1. In every job I had between the ages of 14 and 27, my boss or supervisor was a cisgender straight white man.
Internalized belief: White men are in charge and that’s just how it is. I’m not likely to work in leadership in my lifetime.
Action needed from leadership: Attract, hire, retain, and support diversity in all levels of the organization. Review practices and policies to ensure all individuals are represented and empowered to succeed. Respond to the diversity that exists instead of trying to change people.
2. I had been fired by two managers for challenging the status quo: being ‘out’ about my sexuality and striving for pay equity and equal treatment in the workplace.
Internalized belief: I should hide who I am because I might get fired for being myself and for fighting for what’s right. Regardless of my work ethic or how hard I work.
Action needed from leadership: Approach the organization and it’s employees with an equity lens by asking a few key questions:
“What do individuals in my organization need for success?”
“Am I giving my staff what they need for success or what I think they need?”
“Is everyone empowered to reach their highest potential or just some people?”
“Am I focused on the right things or do I need to humanize my leadership?
“Are people able to show up as their authentic selves? How can I be sure?”
“Does my upper level management reflect those living in my community?”
3. I job-jumped A LOT in my early 30’s trying to find the ‘right fit’.
Internalized belief: Many organizations are not inclusive or equitable for people like me. As long as I do what’s asked of me, hide parts of myself, and don’t rock the boat too much, I might earn a position in leadership.
Action needed from leadership: Reduce the risk for unconscious bias in your hiring practices. Focus energy and resources on hiring the “best candidate for the job” (based on facts), instead of the “right fit” (based on feelings). Ensure there are practices in place to keep the employees you do hire. Retaining the talent you already have is not only good for your people but good for your bottom line.
4. The only job on the list where I fully felt ‘on my career path’ was opening my own business in 2016.
Internalized belief: If I work for myself then I’m in charge of who I work with, the culture I create, how I show up in my work, and the impact I have on the world.
Action needed from leadership: Give people a reason to stay using actions, behaviours, and language that support inclusion. Reward and recognize people’s skills, abilities, and dedication to the organization. Make them feel part of something beyond themselves.
This all being said, there are people like me with an entrepreneurial spirit who will leave jobs and forge their own path, regardless of the actions you take. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you do lose top talent.
The takeaway here?
The hard truth is that people don’t leave organizations, people leave managers.
I worked for over 22 different managers from the age of 14 to 43. It’s not something I share proudly but it sure says something about me and others.
If you’re in a leadership position, you set the tone for what’s accepted and expected by those in your workplace. You set the tone for the culture you want to create and the environment in which it’s created. Leadership is a big role and a lot of responsibility.
I have worked in many leadership roles in the latter part of my career and something I can say with certainty is good leaders care for others, they strive for inclusion, uplift individuals for the greater good, create equitable practices, and walk the talk.
I believe cultural change starts with you, the individual. Organizations change as a result of the people working within them.
Looking to create change in your company culture?