Why 47 Percent of Your Best People Are Ready to Leave -- and What You Can Do About It

Many people will jump ship as soon as they perceive that something better has come along. Here's how to change that.

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By Dov Baron


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Even though he was speaking to his best friend, it was hard to get the words out. Each word seemed punctuated by the desire to swallow an emotional golf ball.

"I don't want to leave her. I love her, but I don't think she really loves me."

When you think about it, business is a lot like romantic relationships. Many people will jump ship as soon as they perceive that something better has come along. Most are disengaged -- they are there in body only. Very few are passionately engaged for an extended period of time.

Related: 6 Reasons Why 'My Way or the Highway' Management Doesn't Work Anymore

According to Gallup's research, 47 percent of your best employees are looking to leave you right now! Furthermore, during the course of surveying over 1.4 million employees, Gallup found that "65 percent of American employees said they had received no recognition from their manager in the last year." Sixty-five percent is a staggeringly high number -- but what if it's actually incorrect?

What if the managers of those 65 percent were asked the same question? I wonder how many of them would say -- and believe -- that they have recognized their employees? Maybe the issue is more about delivering recognition in a way that actually registers.

Although recognition is important, the right kind of recognition is vital. For instance, you may be offering your top talent more money or even a corner office, but have you stopped to consider if that's what would actually make each individual you are dealing with loyal? What if those things, the things you are certain "anyone would want," don't make them feel recognized, appreciated, needed -- or loved?

Despite what you may have believed about what motivates people, today's workforce is no longer willing to work just for the money. They want and need to feel that the work they do is deeply meaningful. They need to know that they are needed and appreciated, and that their voice is heard. Too often, leaders, bosses and managers think they're acknowledging a team member because they give praise or a bonus. The problem is, we are all individuals, and what works for one person, is not necessarily what works for another.

Let's imagine that XYZ Inc. is a Seattle-based software company. Because of their location, the higher-ups of the company think it would be a great idea to show how much they appreciate their top performers by giving them season tickets to the local football team. The thought process is that the Seattle Seahawks is a natural choice. After all, this is Seattle -- and who wouldn't appreciate that?

That Friday afternoon, Mike and Al sit facing each other, having a drink at the bar down the street from work. Al, looking over Mike's shoulder at the game on TV says, "How great is it that they gave us season tickets to the Hawks?" His excitement is obvious.

Related: 6 Reasons Why 'My Way or the Highway' Management Doesn't Work Anymore

Mike unenthusiastically responds, "Yeah, great." It's in that very moment that Mike makes his decision. It becomes clear to him that this company doesn't appreciate him. Earlier that week, another company had put an offer on the table. Although he likes the actual work he is doing, and the people he is working with, he is going to take that other offer.

Al and the rest of the crowd in the bar cheered as the TV showed a Seahawks player dashing across the 50-yard line. Mike thought to himself, "If my boss actually cared, if she had even bothered to get to know me, she would know I hate football!"

I wonder how many of your top talent, right now, are considering: "I don't want to leave her (this company), I love her (it here), but I just don't think she (they) loves (appreciate) me?"

If you want to keep your top talent, it's important to realize there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to recognition. Just as a box of chocolates, a bunch of flowers or a box of cigars might make some people feel loved and appreciated, for others, it could be an insult.

To keep your top talent fiercely loyal, you will have to get to personally know each one of them. You will have to let them know that you appreciate them. You will have to recognize them, let them know they are "loved" in the way that they need to be.

Remember, divorce is very expensive -- but so is replacing one of your top-talented team members!

Remember these three key points:

  • In both romantic relationships and professional relationships, everyone wants to know that they are recognized and appreciated.
  • You must become masterful at finding out what each of your top talent specifically needs in order to have the recognition you give them register for them. There is no one size fits all.
  • As a leader, stay aware that despite what you may think, divorce is always an option. You can never afford to take your people for granted.

Do you know what it will take for each of your top talent to feel recognized, appreciated and valued enough to never consider leaving? If not, maybe it's time to work on your emotional intelligence and upgrade the soft skills that if not applied have a very hard bottom line.

Related: 3 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams

Dov Baron

Top 100 Leadership Speaker, Mentor, Bestselling Author, Master Storyteller

Dov Baron is recognized as one of the top 100 leadership speakers to hire and corporate cultural strategist. He is the founder of "Full Monty Leadership" and a bestselling author. His latest book is Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent.

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