The Learning Spotlight
The Talent Exodus
by John Grubbs
The pending talent exodus is literally off the radar screen for Dan’s company. He is the chief executive for a small company with a rich sixty year history. The niche markets and the specialty products he produces have created a comfortable living for the over four hundred employees and their families. He has veteran employees that have tremendous knowledge and experience in the work they
perform. These sometimes thirty year employees have been the backbone of the company for many years. And truthfully, Dan takes the knowledge and experience for granted. No one on the team is thinking about the tremendous loss the team will experience over the next five to ten years.
The younger managers are aggressively working to meet organizational goals that are rooted in trailing indicators more so than leading indicators. Dan’s company has really not changed the metrics by which they run the company in many years. The same organizational numbers that produce a good measure of productivity and output are the staples for the team. These mid-level managers in their late
thirties and early forties are struggling to find new talent for the team. Young talent is hard to attract because the work environment is hot and the labor can get difficult at times. While the compensation is quite good, very few talented Generation Y (under 30) interest seems to exist in some of the more critical skilled positions. And, the entry level positions are extremely difficult to retain talented, hard working employees. Without admitting it to be true, the
company is targeting and prefers immigrant workers with a perceived strong work ethic to fill openings.
The veteran employees are beginning to retire in higher numbers. The parties and gold watch ceremonies are occurring almost weekly it seems. The cost of the watches is a concern and the human resource group have been tasked to look for a more affordable, comparable alternative. The remaining veterans are beginning to form two distinct groups; those preparing for retirement and
those frustrated by the perception of work from the younger employees.
Those preparing for retirement are almost completely disengaged from the work or the future. These smart, capable and loyal employees are in neutral and coasting toward some date that they have in there own mind. They offer little toward the improvement of the organization. No one asked them nor has anyone been concerned with what opinions they have about the organization. In fact some of the same
concerns that they have had for years are still present today. Dan is clueless.
The veterans employees not preparing for retirement are very frustrated by the new workforce. They consider the younger workers to be lazy and struggle greatly with the broadening language barrier that never existed in the past. This combination has made many veterans even less engaged than their counter parts waiting for retirement. The more significant result is the prevalent negative attitude toward the
company and current management. As a result, these veterans will offer little input on organizational problems and certainly do not offer suggestions for performance improvement.
The young workers (under thirty) are completely surprised when they encounter the negativity and apathy in the older workforce. They have no history that allows them to see "the way" it used to be. Current reality is the only “normal” they understand. This prevalent negative culture creates a sentiment that literally encourages younger workers to leave the organization. Veteran workers
horde knowledge like gold because it is the only source of respect they receive and they young workers are frustrated by this lack of communication on the job. They make mistakes that can be easily avoided since they simply lack experience.
There is no formal training for entry level employees. Knowledge transfer is relegated to informal on-the-job training that is inconsistent and most often ineffective. Dan’s very small training budget is scrutinized greatly and almost always gets cut in half during budget review. Safety orientation consists of numerous videos and documents to sign. There is no substance to the investment madein
a population that may not be around for a long period of time anyway.
Consequently, the younger generation feels no value and Dan is surprised when he sees employee turnover among his younger workers break the seventy percent mark. A self-fulfilling prophecy of high turnover combined with a stereo-typical view of younger workers is compounded by an attitude that cuts the training budget first when costs get too high. With stated unemployment hovering close to ten percent, the
currently reality is only going to worsen when the economy recovers and the jobs return. Dan is feeling the outer bands of the perfect storm as it approaches. Sound familiar?
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