Are Your Key Employees a Flight Risk?

For the past several years I’ve been trying to alert leaders to an impending existential threat to their organizations. I no longer feel the need to do that because it’s no longer impending. The danger is upon us and if you still don’t know what it is then frankly there is little long-term hope for your organization. 

 

Hopefully you’re at least in the group who has the feeling that it’s harder to find people than it used to be…what you need to know is that it’s not just a feeling, it’s a very serious threat to the very existence of your business or organization.

 

The threat I’m talking about of course is the significant shrinking of the available workforce. Upwards of 10,000 Baby Boomers a day reach retirement age and they are being replaced by a much much smaller number of millennials. Even with the Centennials, iGen, Generation Z or whatever you want to call them joining the workforce very soon it won’t be enough to replace all the retiring boomers. 

 

With all due respect (if they still deserve respect) to the politicians who are claiming credit for the near historic low unemployment rate in the United States it has little or nothing to do with their efforts. It’s all about demographics.

 

The math is simply and it does not lie. 

 

One of the worst mistakes a leader can make today is to assume that their key people are not vulnerable to offers from other organizations simply because they provide a fair wage and a good work environment. 

 

Everybody, I repeat everybody, wants something and if you’re not working diligently to provide your people what they want then rest assured some other organization will. 

 

I could go through a long list of what your people might want but “might” doesn’t get it done. You need to know precisely what each of your people want and you need to know it before they are offered it by someone else. 

 

That’s why I’m such a proponent of “stay interviews.” Conducting an exit interview to discover why you’re people are leaving is of little use when compared to conducting a “stay interview” to determine how you can keep them. 

 

Sometimes when asked in a “stay interview” your people may say that “everything is fine” or that they don’t really know what they want. If that’s the case then it’s your job as a leader to help them discover what it is that they want, what it is that will help them stay motivated to remain a part of your organization. Then it’s your job as a leader to deliver it to them if it’s at all possible.

 

I absolutely promise you that if you don’t do that someone else eventually will and it’s getting more likely that it will be sooner rather than later.

 

The number of small businesses closing their doors or hanging on by a thread due to lack of an available workforce is beginning to grow. It is already spreading to larger organizations. If you’re in business then you’re in the people business. If you’re in the people business then you’re going to need to fight for your piece of a shrinking workforce. 

 

The fight begins by not losing the people you currently have. 

 

I truly do not have the vocabulary or writing skills to convey how serious an issue this is becoming for all businesses and organizations. The demographics are just crystal clear!

 

There are a limited number of larger companies who had the vision and forethought to get out in front of this threat and develop programs to retain their people and even recruit new ones. While that’s good for them it makes the situation even more critical for those organizations behind the curve. 

 

The answer to the question that makes up the title of this post is YES! Your key employees are a flight risk. Even if they are not looking to leave there is another organization out there who will try to entice them to do just that. You need to covet them as much or more than the organizations that don’t have them….yet.


Oh, one more thing before we close this out…. if you have an employee who isn’t key to your organization then what the heck are they doing working for you?

6 thoughts on “Are Your Key Employees a Flight Risk?

  1. Steve, great stuff as always. It does amaze me how clueless many are regarding this issue. When the economy is good, everyone wants to take credit. And some technology will cause variations, but people still create most of the value and people won’t be going out of style any time soon. Thanks for a great reminder.

    • Thanks Mike, I JUST had someone tell me that this isn’t really a problem, they tell me that in just 5 years MOST jobs willed be filled by robots with artificial intelligence. Good luck with that! I did have the need to talk with Amazon Customer Service last week though and they seem to already be using robots to “assist” their customers but have yet to add the artificial intelligence part… in fact, they haven’t added any type of intelligence so far as I could tell. 😊

  2. This isn’t just happening at the company level, it’s also happening at the department level in larger companies. I work for a larger organization in a specialty department that requires significant specialized knowledge and skills but is not well funded. Other departments have been luring people from our team for quite some time. Those other departments know the people that come from our department have the expert knowledge and skills to be valuable and with better funding, those departments they can offer much better pay packages. Loyalty only goes so far, especially if one can stay with the company they already work for, keep your seniority and tenure, AND move on to greener pastures.

    • Thanks for your comment, I hadn’t really considered the departmental changing our employees, but it is absolutely a great point. Either way we take care of our people or people will not care to take care of us.

  3. Danielle DePaul says:

    “The number of small businesses closing their doors or hanging on by a thread due to lack of an available workforce is beginning to grow. It is already spreading to larger organizations. If you’re in business then you’re in the people business. If you’re in the people business then you’re going to need to fight for your piece of a shrinking workforce.”

    This is a good article. Please keep in mind that while many baby boomers are retiring, there are more that are still working, and there so many who are looking for work but not being hired simply because of their age. Part of the problem companies have in filing those positions is their discrimination against “older” workers. If your company needs workers, please consider the “older” workforce.

    • I would certainly agree that there are many advantages to hiring more experienced people. One challenge of course is that much of that experience is not necessarily a good fit in today’s higher tech workplace…. but I’d also say that the more experienced workers are very willing to learn.

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