Minimizing Brain Drain

Exit sign to signify brain drain - Peter Barron Stark CompaniesBusiness is getting better. All the economic indicators are telling us that the economy is improving. From the lows of 2008, the stock market continues to rise, restoring the health of employees’ savings and retirement plans. And, just over the last few months, we have been hearing that the real estate market may have completed its bottom and is now embarking on a slow rebound.

What does all this good economics mean?

Two major factors are going to converge on organizations about the same time and it is going to hurt. First, employees will once again have options about where they are going to work. With the economy improving, companies will once again be hiring in larger numbers, and the best employees working for you are going to have the most options. Will they run? If this doesn’t sound painful enough, as the economy, stock market, retirement plans, and housing market all improve, the Baby-Boomers who have been putting off retirement, can finally say, “I’m outta here!”

So what is your organization doing to develop future leaders? If it is like many organizations, your company has a strategic plan of hope that you can get by one more year before the real pain sets in and you have to do something significant. Hope has never been a good strategic plan.

The following six tips will help you and your organization prepare future leaders so that you can effectively deal with, and minimize, the impact of the huge brain drain that everyone is predicting will happen:

  1. Plan well in advance: Everyone can see the economy getting better. To see what will happen and believe that it won’t impact you is the equivalent of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. You are vulnerable to positive shifts in the economy. By planning in advance, you will be able to keep a higher percentage of your best people and you will be able to hire the right people…rather than hiring out of desperation.

  2. Develop strong mentors: It is important to note that most formal mentoring programs fail. The best mentors are people who take a vested interest in helping other leaders with high future potential grow in their career. Do the best future leaders in your organization have someone that they believe truly cares about their personal and professional growth? The more people feel like they are growing, and feel that someone is helping them develop their career, the more they are likely to stay in your organization.

  3. Take a risk: You will never know someone’s potential until you give them a challenge that is beyond their current capabilities. Stretch Assignments push people out of their comfort zone and are one of the fastest way to develop the capability of your future leaders.

  4. Develop new options to keep veterans on tap: As the health of the population continues to improve, many workers who want to retire from the 50-60 hour work week may not want to fully retire. They may be the perfect person to work from home, come in one or two days a week or to mentor someone who does not have all the skills they need to be fully successful.

  5. Build Multiple Skills: In today’s world, one-trick ponies can become extinct when the economy shifts or customer preferences change. Rotating employees through different jobs can accomplish two important points. First, it gives future leaders a better understanding of how all the parts connect, and second, it provides the organization with team members who can fulfill multiple functions. Leaders who have a strong understanding of the different positions and how all the parts fit together tend to have a better understanding of what impacts and motivates employees.

  6. Build Soft Skills: As the world continues to become more complex, one thing remains constant: if you are a leader, you will need to be effective at leading people. Leaders have followers. Do your future leaders have the skills to lead in a way that makes others want to follow them; are they highly motivated to produce great work; and, when it is their time, could they develop future leaders who improve your organization’s sustainability?

What’s your plan for developing your next generation of leaders?

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