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Brain drain: fight it

Yahoo is facing a major employee brain drain. Only 34% of the tech company’s employees believe that the company will improve, and top talent is streaming out the door (cnbc). 
While Yahoo’s story is possibly dramatized by the media (as perhaps Amazon’s recently was), it underscores the importance of employee morale and retention on profitability and success in all organizations. Leaders who garner trust, keep promises and emphasize employee engagement will benefit their organizations.
Hopefully your organization isn’t the next Yahoo! But you still ought to think about this. Here are some tips to get starting on engaging your talent base and avoid that talent drain when times get tough. You especially want to keep those resilient people who stick with your organization–those are the people who will transform things for the better, the people who are not just along for the ride and a paycheck.
Provide challenges and growth: Tough people like a challenge, intellectual or process-wise. Give people tough problems to solve–the things you don’t know how to answer. If you’re hired the right people, they can figure these things out, so don’t fear giving them tough things to do. However, beware of these things–you don’t want to set people up for failure with the truly impossible tasks.
Take the money out of the equation: You want people who are 110% behind your organization’s mission and vision, but face it, they’re not going to stick around for their health. Pay them at market rate or better so they stick around and work their hardest.
Mind the generational gap: Everyone wants engagement and most people support community service, but the generations have different styles. Know those.
Coach the people: Get outside coaches for your top people or special situations, and train your managers on the basics of coaching employees.
Train your managers to lead: It’s not enough to have people supervise others’ tasks; they need to lead at their appropriate levels and delegate certain tasks.
Provide meaning and motivation: Understand how people are motivated, and cater to those needs, whether it’s in their recognition style or office layout.
Hire cultural matches: Does your company value sharing? Is it territorial? Uptight? Casual? Fast-paced? Image-focused? Know your organization and make sure you hire people that will not clash with the culture. Here are some ways to ensure you hire a fit, and here are some off the wall ways–try at your own risk.
So, try all these things to fight your organization’s brain drain. Remember that these activities are continuous and ever-changing. You may have to change strategies year-to-year, but you have to keep these going year-after-year. And they all have caveats–do too much of one aspect and you may hurt another, so keep the balance!
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