Posted on 15 December 2011

Why Very Talented People Leave Big Companies

With the way very large companies seem to be posting record profits these days (Uhhh, thank you… stimulus package??), you’d think people would be flocking to these ginormous corporations as a safe-haven in times of economic turmoil.  Yet (while that may be the case) the fact remains that being BIG doesn’t (of course) mean BETTER as the time-tested truth is coming around again that very talented people and big, corporate, cushy companies don’t always get along.

Recently, Forbes’ Eric Jackson posted his “Top Ten list of what large companies do to lose their top talent” in the which he details a very good rundown of why great people don’t often fit the laser-etched slot defined for them in the corporate org-chart [hat-tip for noticing this]. Check out the article for the meat, but his ten reasons are:

  1. Big Company Bureaucracy
  2. Failing to Ignite their Passions (wrong project assignment)
  3. Poor Execution of Annual Performance Reviews
  4. No Career Development Discussion
  5. Shifting Whims/Strategic Priorities
  6. Lack of Accountability / Micromanagement
  7. Top Talent likes other Top Talent
  8. The Missing Vision Thing
  9. Lack of Open-Mindedness
  10. Who’s the Boss?

The hard thing is, there’s not really any brain-science in this article at all, yet this lesson repeats itself over and over and over again.

I guess, sometimes in our rush to “ship product” and “beat the competition to market” and “stay on brand” and “execute the go-forward strategy” we forget, on occasion, that there’s people out there on the other end of our terse emails and tight-like-a-ship conference calls. There’s people with ideas and vision and capability that, if we leave untapped long-enough, they will find an outlet that looks a whole lot like a feisty competitor to the brand and “marketshare” you keep losing sleep over.

In 2008, in collaboration with Petter Fretty for BusinessConnect Magazine, I detailed eight reasons companies lose great people in an article called “How to Retain Your Employees” that really echoes Jackson’s list.

Truth is truth, I guess.

At the end of the day, if you’re a manager and you’re waiting around for Human Resources to give you the tools to retain your best people, you’re going to lose the battle before it’s ever begun. The question is, what are YOU doing differently about retaining talent in 2012 than you’ve ever done before?

…Well? (comments appreciated)

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