Obamacare Is Turning Top Performers Into Free Agents

Company health insurance is no longer enough to keep would-be entrepreneurs tethered to corporate jobs.

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By Tasha Eurich

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It could be said that Obamacare giveth and Obamacare taketh away.

It's giving the opportunity for almost anyone to obtain health insurance. What it might be taking away are the top performers in your company.

Related: Obamacare Already Shrinking Small-Business Job Growth

At every level, restless employees are celebrating the chance to jump ship. As many as 2.3 million Americans are expected to leave their jobs because of the Affordable Care Act. Your company's healthcare plan may no longer be a sufficient inducement to keep them on board. It's already estimated that the U.S. workforce will be made up of 40% freelancers by the year 2020.

Studies indicate that 68 percent of workers value benefits over salary. With health insrance now widely available, employees are no longer shackled to the corporate world. From the frontline to the boardroom, closet entrepreneurs are just waiting for the justification to go out on their own. Others see a chance to retire early. Lower paid workers hanging on to jobs for the healthcare plan see Obamacare as their opportunity to start their own businesses and build wealth.

"In recent months, I've begun to notice that many executives are leaving the corporate world to explore more purpose-driven work as entrepreneurs,'' said Kristen Kenton, president of Colorado-based executive search firm Kenton Talent Management. "They've cited changes in the business landscape, along with healthcare costs, as a reason for exiting corporate. I believe, for many executives, the Affordable Care Act is giving talented executives the 'push' they need to leave."

Atlanta resident Rachel Johnson loved her job as a director at a global consulting company, but the pace of the job was beginning to affect her chronic health condition.

"I needed to work part time and with a flexible schedule. But before Obamacare, I couldn't leave my corporate job without losing my health insurance or paying the exorbitant fees for COBRA," she said.

Related: Despite Cons, Entrepreneurs See Opportunity in Obamacare

Johnson was uninsurable by an individual plan due to pre-existing conditions before Obamacara. Both she and her husband were relying on her full-time job for coverage. "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act," she said, "we don't have to make career decisions anymore based on health insurance."

The message is clear for CEOs and HR executives. Now that affordable health insurance is available elsewhere, it's time to take a serious look at the salaries and work environment they provide to top performing employees at every level. Losing your best people has serious implications for any business. From turnover costs to replacement costs to loss in productivity, the consequences are dire. It's time to stop hoping this issue will go away and begin doing something about it. Here are four tips for retaining top talent:

1. Ignite their passion. Employees are doing a job they love are less likely to take other opportunities. As much as you can, ensure that your people are in jobs that play to their strengths. When you need to, tailor the job to the person.

2. Face reality. If people are leaving your organization, find out why. Whether it's through a formal exit interview process or a less formal means, find out what your work environment is really like so you can determine what issues need to be addressed.

3. Develop your leaders. It's been said that people don't leave jobs, they leave bosses. If you have what I call a bunch of "Trail of Dead Bodies" leaders running around your company, you're in trouble. Instead, teach your leaders that driving results and focusing on people is not a trade-off.

4. Be entrepreneur-friendly. Many closet entrepreneurs leave the corporate world because they hate the incessant rules and policies. Take a hard look at your company: Do you give employees flexibility and treat them like adults? If you don't, it will irk your best people.

Related: What the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Means for Entrepreneurs

Tasha Eurich

Organizational psychologist and best-selling author

Tasha Eurich is a New York Times best-selling author. She holds a doctorate in organization psychology and writes about psychology and the workplace. Eurich’s research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, and she regularly speaks to audiences around the world, including her recent TEDx talk. As the founder of The Eurich Group, she helps companies from start-ups to the Fortune 100 succeed by improving their leaders’ and teams’ effectiveness.


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