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Help them grow or watch them go – why so many companies lose talented workers | Apr 26, 2013

Very recently the Harvard Business Review’s “Morning Advantage” reported a brutal reality: “50% of People Don’t Feel Valued at Work.” Admittedly, this statistic is the result of the only one study reported by the American Psychological Association (APA). But whatever the exact number is, study after study shows a very large percentage of people are unhappy at work.

Here is a related fact: The number one reason people leave an organization is a bad relationship with their supervisor. No matter how talented workers are, no matter how much potential they have to help an organization accomplish its mission and economic goals, that professional’s feelings of satisfaction (or lack thereof) is a determining factor in whether they will remain at that organization.

At the same time, organizations are increasingly recognizing that their most valuable and expandable asset is their people. Organizations are waking up from the dream–like delusion that convinced them in the 1980s and 90s that a focus on technology and marketing could bring about sustained competitive advantages. Technology is not a distinguisher; it has only leveled the playing field.

The exponential growth of the coaching market whereby organizations/professionals are seeking coaches to help them better manage their direct reports, and improve their “emotional intelligence” (called “EQ”) is due to the stark reality that selecting, developing, and retaining talented professionals is the only true way of winning your market.

Next generation organizations, no matter their size or scale, are investing in great people science technologies to improve the satisfaction and developmental trajectories of their talented staff.

For those who have closely followed the last 30 years of business literature and lore, a key and brutal reality is crystallizing at this time in history of business: you must become psychologically astute with people if you want them to remain with your organization. Specifically, you must be conducting “stay interviews” where you are identifying the dissatisfactions of your valued people, leading to meaningful development plans instead of superficial and generic documentation of annual goals.

In other words, work environments at leading firms now are very customized to the personalities of their most valued people. This is the future of business.

One of the most highly regarded business books written in the last 30 years is titled “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. The core truism identified in this book is that for your company to succeed and outrun your competition, you must “get and keep the right people on the bus”. To do this, you have to do more than follow your gut instincts as you hire and supervise because you wear your own set of blinders. There is also a problem with “supervising from the gut”: research has shown that when organization’s only use superficial methods like interviews, resumes, and references to select and develop people, they are not getting the deep people intelligence they need.

To keep your most valued staff, you need to identify their unique set of motivations, conflict resolution styles, needs for affirmation, etc. The list could go on. The point is you need behavioral science tools to discover the qualities that superficial methods will miss. To effectively coach high performers in your organization, it is especially important to address their unique needs which they may not even be aware of because in general people tend to have low to moderate degrees of insight into how their own mind and personality operates. And what effect they have on others. Behavioral science tools are designed to uncover those hidden or nuanced human factors that make a real difference in work satisfaction, interpersonal engagement, and conflict resolution.

But not every consultant is a true behavioral scientist with a broad and deep toolbox. For example, our firm is a true believer in the need to use the right tool for the right job. Too many consultants overuse one measure, such as the Myers-Briggs, because they do not have a high level of behavioral science training. Choose your consultant very carefully, and review what their science related accomplishments have been.

To read more about the various ways in which people tend to be unhappy at work feel free to go to the following web link: http://tinyurl.com/bbox9uz). More information is available on the APA website as well.


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If you or your organization are faced with a workplace growth challenge, email Tom and he will consider writing a blog about it.

Meet the Expert: Dr. Tom Brunner is a capable executive level consultant who has worked with local and nationally known organizations including Carondelet Healthcare, Tucson Electric Power, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Discovery Channel. Tom is a published behavioral science expert and is the Founder and Principal of Performance Edge Solutions. He is a licensed psychologist and a member of the Society of Consulting Psychologists. He has been an invited speaker at national conferences and local organizations such as University Medical Center, Tucson, AZ. Tom is humbled by the fact that in 2010 he was awarded the Arizona Psychological Foundations Early Career Psychologist Award. He is the senior author of a personality tool that has been adapted into seven languages. To see a 60-second video introducing his consulting firm click here, to read his bio click here, and to review his recent blogs, click here.