Monday, March 30, 2015

Does your company suffer from talent drain?


My first full-time job was working for a corporation that had made its wealth from being innovative. When the baby-boomers decided to start talking about retirement they coined this phrase "brain drain" which referred to them (the brains) retiring and taking their innovative knowledge with them (the drain).

The reality is of course that the baby-boomers want to stay employed as long as possible because some income is better than no income. They came up with this great marketing campaign to sell the idea of staying employed past retirement age and so the jingle "brain drain" was born.

The problem with this jingle is that it is neither true nor beneficial. The truth is that most of the baby-boomers stopped putting in effort several years ago and now show-up to work and just sit in their chair. They have unofficially retired, while still collecting a full-time paycheck.

Another fabrication of that generation is the jingle, "you must be present to win". This works out great for them because the requirement to maintain a job is to sit in your chair day after day. A model employee is one who shows up early and stays late.

Combine the first jingle, "Brain drain", with the second jingle, "You must be present to win." and you've created a perfect environment for baby-boomers to retire with a salary. This is fine for most large companies because they are coasting on the momentum earned from the great products of last century. The problem is when they run out of momentum and need to hire new talent.

Baby-boomers holding knowledge hostage and setting up an environment that rewards sitting in a chair makes for a perfectly hostile environment for young talent.

The first problem is that all knowledge is on the internet, so any "trade secret" locked away in the head of a baby-boomer is only a Google search away from discovery. (Yes, even that idea... I can find it freely published on the internet.) Empowered by the free knowledge, new companies are blazing onto the scene years ahead of the traditional market leaders.

The second problem is that today's talent has been trained to work when and where they are most productive. Universities understand that learning styles vary and they allow students to work when and where they need to. Remote classes are normal; showing up to class is optional. "Being present to win." is a laughable statement to today's university graduates.

Faced with a clogged career ladder, mediocre company performance and an environment that demands sitting in a chair, today's talent simply walks out the door, across the street and into the next office...and they get rewarded with a promotion just for walking in the door.

Does your company create a hostile environment for today's talented employees? The truth is you will never know because the talented employees are out your door before you have the opportunity to ask.