When the Tide Turns, Mindsets Must Change

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But what about when the economy improves, the rate of job-creation revs

up, the 75 million Boomers start retiring, and the 45 million Generation

Xers are too few to fill the available jobs? This is the scenario the U.S.

Department of Labor (see Figure 1-3) now predicts at least through 2012.12

If this prediction of dire worker shortages holds true—and most labor

economists agree that it will—the war for talent will rage again. Employers

of choice will once again fight hammer and tong for available talent, and

the losers will not survive.

This means that no manager can afford to maintain outdated attitudes

about turnover, especially when it is regrettable and preventable. Competitive

managers will need to adopt a new mindset: that every voluntary

avoidable employee departure is a disappointment to be analyzed, learned

from, and corrected. Maintaining that mindset means managers can no

longer just accept employees’ superficial answers about why they quit, even

though in some cases ‘‘better pay’’ or ‘‘better opportunity’’ may be the real

reasons. Managers and senior executives need to know the truth about why

they have lost valued talent, and they need to accept that maybe it was

something they did or didn’t do that pushed the employee out the door.

Of course there will always be managers who are too preoccupied,

self-focused, or insensitive to notice the signs that employees are becoming

disengaged while there is still time to do something about it. And when

employees eventually do leave, managers may be too uncaring or in denial

to confront the real reasons. Many cannot handle the unpleasant truth that

the real reason employees are leaving may be linked to their own behavior.

These managers are actually choosing not to see or hear the evil that plagues

them.

Figure 1-3.

Projected growth of jobs vs. workforce. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor

Statistics, 2004.

MILLIONS

160

150

140

2002 YEARS 2012

165 Million

162 Million

Projected Workforce Growth:

Projected Job Growth:

We cannot hope to keep all our valued talent. But good managers care

enough to try to understand why good people leave, especially when it

could have been prevented. Over the next several years, organizations must

do everything they can to coach and train their managers in how to engage

and keep re-engaging talented people.