One Surprising Reason You’re Losing Talent and What To Do About It

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Last week, I talked about the four major workforce trends headed our way. Here’s a quick review:

Trend One: Generational Shift 
Over 45% of Americans will be leaving the workforce in the next decade for new opportunities.

Trend Two: Women in Business
More than 9.4 million firms are women-owned, employing 7.9 million people and generating 1.5 trillion in sales as of 2015.

Trend Three: Diversity is Here
The old minority is the new majority: 92% of U.S. population growth is attributed to ethnic groups.

Trend Four: Freelance Workers
Temporary (freelance) worker demand is rising with predictions that 40% of the U.S. workforce will be contingent workers by 2020.

Your Best Talent is Leaving the Corporate World In Order To…

But when looking closely at these trends, I noticed one way they overlap: entrepreneurship. Each of these groups– baby boomers, millennials, women, and minorities– are trending toward entrepreneurship. That means you’re bleeding talent as your best workers leave the corporate world to pursue entrepreneurship.

And therein lies the challenge: How can you meet the needs of those who are seeking entrepreneurship, from the standpoint of its antithesis– the corporate world?

You first look at the reasons people are drawn to entrepreneurship. Here are five common reasons people become entrepreneurs, and how you might shift your workplace culture to accommodate those same desires.

Five Common Reasons People Become Entrepreneurs

1. Autonomy

Losing Talent

Entrepreneurship provides individuals with the freedom to make their own decisions, work at their own pace, and focus on what they find most important. Unfortunately, autonomy isn’t a common attribute to an in-house position, especially for employees not in the management tier.

How can organizations add autonomy?

In order to retain your talent that craves autonomy, empower them to make decisions, encourage them to speak up and ask them to suggest the best course of action. Remember that you hired these individuals for a reason; if you couldn’t depend on them to do their job without you breathing down their necks, you wouldn’t have brought them onboard in the first place.

One way to do this is to have a team meeting once a month for the sole purpose of sharing individual ideas and suggestions. Make this a lively meeting, create an atmosphere of safety, and truly listen (link). At this meeting, let employees set their intentions for the following month based on what they feel is most important. These intentions will be revisited and revised at the next month’s meeting.

2. Opportunity and Accomplishment

Losing Talent

One reason women leave organizations is because they feel they have the opportunity to achieve more on their own. If they are the ones building the business, they will make sure not to include a glass ceiling in the building plans. Why? Because the higher women climb in the work world, the harder it is for them to earn what men are paid. For example, women in professional specialty occupations earn 72.7% of what men in the same position earn, and women in upper level executive, administrative and managerial occupations earn even less at 72.3%. Rank aside, the pay gap across all occupations is 77.5%.

With the bias minorities face in the workplace, pursuing entrepreneurship can also lead to more opportunity for accomplishments. As of 2014, of the Fortune 500 CEOs, just over 4% were people of color. Even Google reports that 3% of their employees are Hispanic and 2% are black.

Baby Boomers feel cheated out of opportunity as well. An AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data found that the average duration of unemployment for job seekers ages 55 and older was 54.3 weeks in December 2014, more than five months longer than the 28.2 weeks younger workers typically remain unemployed. Seems pretty obvious why someone might turn to entrepreneurship when faced with these statistics.

How can organizations make sure employees have opportunities for accomplishment?

Want your employees to feel they have opportunities? Give them opportunities. That requires a hard look at your organization, to determine where employees face roadblocks of accomplishment. Are your employees victims of performance bias? Here’s how to counteract that. Are they under the weight of unconscious bias? Here are steps to counteract that as well.

3. Freedom, Flexibility and Family Time

Losing Talent

For women, work flexibility (83%) was ranked the most important job factor when evaluating a job prospect. 35% of women surveyed have actually left a job because it did not have work flexibility. Work flexibility is also important to the Millennials, who want to dictate their own schedules. Both men and women alike who value time with their family will evaluate a role based on flexibility.

How can organizations offer freedom, flexibility and family time to employees?

Consider flexible working hours for your employees. Many organizations are turning toward the ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) human resources strategy. Employee performance is based on the work they complete, not when and where they do it. This gives employees the freedom to succeed while still having a somewhat flexible schedule. And if you’re not ready for that big of a paradigm shift, start small with allowing employees to work from home once a week, or choose a four day a week schedule with longer hours.

Bigger picture, make sure your employees know that leadership respects family values, and that your company culture is one that encourages family time. This might require the abandonment of rigid policies about time in the office, personal days, and PTO. The benefit of creating a culture such as this far outweighs the drawbacks. And you just might keep some of your best talent as a direct result.

4. Feeling of Responsibility to Society

Losing Talent

The feeling of being a “cog in the wheel” is alive and well. Even when employees feel functionally necessary, they often feel of small significance and importance. As entrepreneurs, people can look at the world’s problems and try to solve them creatively. They can assess what is missing and fill the gap.

What can organizations do to satisfy their employee’s sense of responsibility to society?

To satisfy your employees’ sense of responsibility to society, start with values. What are your organizational values? Here’s how to define them. Do your employees’ values align with yours? Values give employees purpose in the workplace, which matters more now than ever before.

Then, make sure you are offering people the opportunity to make a difference in the world. Consider PTO for volunteering, company-wide community service days, and access to youth mentoring programs. Make it easy for employees to find ways to contribute to society that the company supports, like offering an online portal of volunteer programs they can explore and participate in.

5. Creativity

Losing Talent

In a large organization, creative people can suffer. There isn’t much variation to their work, and if the job isn’t remotely creative, they are not fulfilled. Creative people turn to entrepreneurship because it takes creative thinking to be innovative enough to succeed.

What can organizations do to incorporate creativity into their culture?

If you want a company culture that encourages creativity, you must get comfortable with the process of try-fail-redo-try again-fail-redo, and so on. Failure must be encouraged.

Rosabeth M. Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, suggests three excellent ways to create a culture of innovation. They are:

  1. Make sure that innovation is at the core of your strategy, and that every communication you send to employees contains that message. She explains, “Think of innovation strategy as a pyramid: big bets at the top, a few projects in development in the middle, and a broad base of continuous improvements, incremental contributions, and early-stage new ideas at the bottom.”
  2. Make innovation a job requirement for some or all positions. Kanter reminds us of 3M’s policy of telling employees to spend 15% of their time on projects of their choosing. This strategy worked well for 3M—it resulted in the Post-it. Who knows what product or business idea might come from this? It could take your company to the next level.
  3. “Recognize innovation in every part of the company,” says Kanter. For example, Gillette hosted an innovation fair, where each unit could show off their most innovative ideas. This could be done on an individual level as well.

Innovation is absolutely imperative for organizations to survive. So valuing the creativity of your workers not only keeps your best talent – it might keep your lights on!

According to Manpower Group, 40% of global employers report talent shortages. This is a real concern for organizations in every industry. I recommend tackling this problem by looking at the decade ahead and the top four workforce trends headed our way. There are many ways to prepare for these trends, and one of them is to create a more entrepreneurial culture at your organization.

What do you find attractive about entrepreneurship? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below, send me an email , or find me on Twitter.

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