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Are you losing your talent faster than your hair?

by Alan Hosking: Publisher of HR Future, South Africa's human strategy magazine, and a Leadership Renewal Coach for senior executives.
Hair loss has certainly been thrust into the spotlight by the recent slap down at the recent Oscars. We’ve always tended to think of it as a male thing, known as male pattern hair loss but, with Chris Rock making reference to Jada Pinkett Smith’s Alopecia, it’s been highlighted as a female condition too.

Which makes one wonder why managers (both male and female) are losing talent faster than they’re losing their hair!

As the Great Resignation reflects the dissatisfaction of people regarding their jobs or working conditions in light of the devastation caused by the pandemic, if you’re a team leader who is experiencing a loss of talent, you would do well to ask yourself why the talent that joins your department or team hops to another company before you’ve managed to get any productivity out of them?

Sure, younger workers are a lot more mobile and a lot less loyal, but maybe there’s a more subtle reason that they duck before they’ve been with you any significant length of time.

Companies which care about their people spend a truck load of money getting the company culture just right, building sound relationships, getting the working conditions to everybody’s liking, ensuring that everyone gets a WhatsApp message from the CEO on their birthdays, only to find that the organisation still bleeds talent at a frightening rate.

They spend hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, on their employer branding to make sure that employees think the company they work for is something to be proud of. They invest heavily in training their talent to show them that they really want to see them growing and acquiring the right skills, but the talent STILL leaves them – often once they’ve finished the training!

Executives decide they want to get to the bottom of the problem. They get into a holy huddle in the board room or go on a bosberaad to a far away game lodge to thrash out the problem. They return with lots of smart (and expensive) ideas to stop the bleeding, but nothing helps.

Having scratched their heads so much, the only thing some of those executives lose faster than their talent is their hair. So they give up, shrug their shoulders and think that it’s just a fact of life regarding the “youth of today”... 

Sometimes, we fail to see what the real cause of the problem is because it’s just too blindingly obvious or too close to home. The blindingly obvious fact is that, while all the retention tricks and tools are important, research shows that the old truth that employees don’t leave companies, they leave their supervisors or managers is still very much valid.

Yes, it might be as simple as that. Your company may be throwing away millions simply because your leadership has possibly failed to see that the people in management positions – who have the greatest influence in your talent’s lives – are just not nice people. They’re people who have bad – or no – interpersonal skills, who are grumpy and insecure and who consequently operate according to personal agendas that have absolutely nothing to do with inspiring the talent they are supposed to manage to rise to greater heights.

Answer this question: do YOU LIKE your boss? If not, why not? Your answer will be revealing. Now let’s get a little more personal ... if you manage people, do you think those people actually LIKE YOU? You see, it’s no longer enough to simply be respected as a boss. If people don’t actually like working for and with you, they’re going to move on.

So I’m not talking about whether people respect your position or comply with your instructions, or whether they speak politely to you. I’m asking if you can say with certainty that your people actually LIKE you. If they don’t, you’re not going to keep them for long.

If you want to be liked as a boss, you have to demonstrate a genuine interest in the people you manage. While you have a responsibility to act in a professional manner, you have to also be prepared to show the “real you” to the people who report to you, to show them that, because of your authenticity and integrity, what they see is what they get.

Those of you who are old enough to know the term “WYSIWYG” will know that it stands for “What You See Is What You Get”, from the days when PC screens first started reflecting what we really wanted to see on our computers. Well, if you start being a WYSIWYG boss, you may find that people will WANT to work for you and with you, and that your staff retention will spike and your departures will drop. And this applies to the whole organisation.

There’s no need to compromise standards – people understand and respect the need to maintain standards, but you can do so in a way that ensures that you’re liked. And that’s being a smart boss and an authentic person – who retains talent and saves the company tons of money as well as gets a whole lot of productivity out of those reporting to them!

Useful resources:
HR Future
HR Future is South Africa's only independent, most forward thinking human resource magazine with the richest content wealth of HR related issues on the continent of Africa to help executives recruit, manage, train, reward and retain the best talent.
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