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• ˜˜ABC Company does not take full advantage of the employee skills
that exist internally.™™
• ˜˜Employees are considered a billing number and their skill sets and
hopes are not important.™™
• ˜˜ABC Company hires over-quali¬ed employees into positions with
low titles or grades.™™
• ˜˜They do not structure the positions to include job variety and chal-
lenge, which leads to a boring, routine job very quickly.™™
The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

• ˜˜Employees are often in positions they are not quali¬ed for.™™
• ˜˜XYZ Company doesn™t understand the concept of utilizing their
employees™ skills to the fullest extent.™™
• ˜˜Our company just created a new training program for the opera-
tions group. In each department, they now have a skills coach. I am
that person in my department. The thing is that I wasn™t asked if this
was something that I would like to do.™™
• ˜˜Job responsibilities are broken down too much. Too many people
are doing jobs that can be combined with another job.™™
• ˜˜The company hires anyone.™™
• ˜˜They have the wrong type of people in certain positions.™™
• ˜˜Moving a person into a job that they don™t want, even to prevent
them from losing a job, is not a good policy. And if they don™t take
that job, then they receive no outplacement assistance.™™
• ˜˜In cross-training they give you the opportunity to learn a new task,
but move you again before you learn it.™™
• ˜˜Managers are not good about giving employees extra responsibili-
ties. They want to be in control of too much and don™t want to let
the employees help out once in a while.™™
• ˜˜There is too much control at the top and not enough delegation.™™
• ˜˜There was not enough authority pushed down. There were very
talented people in the local of¬ce who truly had no authority.™™
• ˜˜My supervisor said I didn™t deserve a raise because I didn™t do any-
thing new.™™

These are the comments of workers whose fundamental need to exer-
cise competence has not been met. They are a sad testimony to an inestima-
ble waste of human talent and loss of productivity. How does this happen?
A closer look at the comments reveals some of the answers:

• Managers don™t care or notice if their people are bored or unchal-
• Managers don™t delegate enough to make jobs more interesting or
• Employees do not know their own strengths and the kind of work
that would ¬t them best.
• Many organizations have no way of effectively assessing the talent of
their employees.

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• Employees are reluctant to discuss their dissatisfaction with their
• Many jobs are so overly de¬ned and narrowly drawn that almost
anyone placed in those jobs would be underemployed.
• Managers are in such a hurry to hire that they end up just hiring
warm bodies.
• Some organizations are simply inept when it comes to evaluating
talent and matching people to the right jobs.
• For many managers, helping their employees grow and use new tal-
ents is not a high priority.

What™s Missing: A Passion for Matching
With all these examples of talent management malpractice, it™s almost sur-
prising that 20 percent of the working population does get to use their
strengths every day. It is also a reminder of how rare and special it is to
have a manager who cares about the matching of talent to the job and does
it well.
The key missing ingredient in so many companies is management™s
lack of passion for getting the right people in the right jobs. It has been said
that the best managers are the best match-makers. This is truer today than
it has ever been because of the preeminence of talent in an economy now
dominated by service industries, encompassing everything from health care
to retail, from business services to education. Distinguished business execu-
tives and management scholars have never been more in agreement about
the importance of maintaining a relentless focus on talent:

Over time, choosing the right people is what creates the elusive sus-
tainable competitive advantage.
”Larry Bossidy, chairman and former CEO
of Honeywell Corporation2

The best thing we can do for our competitors is hire poorly. If I hire a
bunch of bozos, it will hurt us because it takes time to get rid of them
. . . then they start hiring people of lower quality. . . . We are always
looking to hire people who are better than we are.
”Miscrosoft recruiting director3

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

Leaders of companies that go from good to great . . . start by getting
the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the
right people in the right seats.
”Jim Collins, Good to Great4

In acknowledgment of the new realization that talent is king, many
large companies have even created senior executive positions with titles
such as ˜˜chief talent of¬cer,™™ or ˜˜vice president, talent acquisition.™™
If matching people to the right jobs is generally recognized to be the
key to business success, why do so many businesses lack the passion and
commitment to get managers at every level to take it seriously and excel at
it? There are many obstacles to consider, but the greatest of them all is a
basic lack of understanding about the nature of human talent.

Common Misconceptions and Truths About Talent
• Misconception No. 1: Employees are interchangeable parts to be moved into
whatever slots most need to be ¬lled. It is truly amazing that so many
managers seem to hold such a belief in this day and age, but judging
by the way so many managers move employees around like stick
¬gures, they obviously still do. As a corollary to this belief, many
managers also believe that anyone can do certain jobs, especially
lower-level ones, so they end up just hiring warm bodies, many of
whom are not well matched to the work and end up as turnover
Truth: People are ˜˜hard-wired™™ to perform certain activities better
than others and to prefer using a handful of these talents more than
These preferred natural gifts and talents are sometimes referred to as
˜˜motivated abilities,™™ meaning that people are naturally self-moti-
vated to use them and will make every effort to use them in their
jobs, even if their jobs do not appear to require them. If a job does
not allow employees to use their motivated abilities, they will ¬nd a
way to use them in their leisure time because it is intrinsically satisfy-
ing to exercise these select few talents.
• Misconception No. 2: Skills and knowledge are more important than talents.
It is easy to understand why so many managers believe this. It all
begins with the hiring process when someone sits down to make a
list of job requirements and writes down the basic requirements for

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eligible candidates. At the top of that list are the minimum skills,
knowledge, certi¬cations, degrees, or training needed to perform the
job. Because these requirements are so often the primary focus for
screening candidates out and in, many managers frequently lose sight
of the natural abilities that will ultimately determine excellence in
the job.
Truth: While job-content skills and knowledge are important as basic
job requirements, they are much less important for long-term success
on the job compared to natural talent. Most taxi drivers, for example,
can learn the streets and how to get from here to there, but the most
successful taxi drivers have vital native abilities: friendliness, being a
good listener, the ability to sense when customers want to talk, a
good sense of direction, observation skills, tact and diplomacy, eye-
hand-foot coordination, to name a few.
Hiring managers frequently fail to make the distinction between eli-
gibility to do the job based on trainable skills and suitability to do the
job based on personality factors and natural talent. The problem is
that natural talents are so much more dif¬cult to identify than train-
able skills, causing many managers to make very little effort to do so;
many more simply do not know how. The result is the hiring of
trained applicants who lack the native talents to achieve true compe-
tence, and the screening out of or failure to consider many trainable
external applicants or internal candidates who do possess the right
talents for success.
• Misconception 3: With the right training and coaching and the proper
attitude, people can learn to do well in almost any job. This myth is related
to that great American idea that ˜˜you can do anything if you just set
your mind to it.™™ Many managers confront their employees with this
very challenge, urging competent employees to take on ˜˜stretch™™
assignments outside the range of their natural talents, and even pro-
moting them into management positions when what they truly enjoy
is doing the work, not delegating it.
Truth: Yes, people are extremely adaptable, and can be ˜˜bent, folded,
and mutilated™™ to perform many roles adequately. But, unless they
are in the roles that match their motivated abilities (natural talents),
they will not excel or enjoy the work. Instead, they will become
disengaged, possibly burning themselves out, or search for ways to
change the role, or leave the job altogether.
What™s really going on here, in many cases, is that managers are far
more interested in their own needs to ¬ll a slot than they are in the

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

best use of employees™ talents. They may say they are trying to de-
velop their people by challenging them, and they may even convince
themselves they are doing the right thing, and feel very self-satis¬ed
and well intentioned, but the fact is, they are misusing and disrespect-
ing their most precious asset.
Employees also buy into in this process by not being suf¬ciently
aware of their own best talents, or con¬dent enough in them, to turn
down an inappropriate assignment, or proactively seek a better ¬t
when the job has gone stale.

The bottom-line assumption in all three of these misconceptions about
talent is that the needs of the organization supersede the needs of the indi-
vidual, and that it is the individual who must adapt. Of course, individuals
have always adapted, especially during economic hard times, and they al-
ways will adapt when job security and survival are at stake. And organiza-
tions are certainly limited in their ability to accommodate every employee™s
But when times get better and companies are competing for talent,
people will have other choices outside the organization, and they will pur-
sue them. At that point, organizations start waking up to the fact that per-
haps a way can be found to meet the employee™s needs and the needs of
the organization, and both parties are better served for having made the
effort. That can be a turning point in their becoming true employers of

Recognizing the Signs of Job-Person Mismatch
An employee may be mismatched with the job if he or she:

• Did not seem excited when ¬rst assigned to the job.
• Complains that the job content is not what was expected.
• Is not achieving the results or standards you expected.
• Starts making uncharacteristic mistakes.
• Is stressed and overmatched by the demands of the job.
• Starts asking that some job tasks be reassigned to coworkers or out-

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• Appears bored or unchallenged.
• Keeps coming around asking for a new project.
• Keeps mentioning a talent they would like to use in the job.
• Starts spending discretionary time on an activity that is more satisfy-
ing to perform but may not be important to the job.
• Requests a reassignment or starts lobbying for a promotion.
• Starts applying for other jobs in the organization.
• Generally appears less engaged or energized on a daily basis.

Obstacles to Preventing and Correcting Job-Person
Many of the obstacles to effective job-person matching are based on de¬-
ciencies of organizational leadership and the human resource department,
while some are attributable to the manager and others to the individual

• The organization does not have basic job descriptions.
• The organization is using outdated job descriptions as the basis for
screening, interviewing, and hiring.
• The organization has so narrowly de¬ned the activities of a job that
employees who occupy that job feel they have no room to perform
the job in a way that makes best use of their strengths.
• The organization has not forecasted critical talent needs based on
clear strategic business objectives.
• The organization has not analyzed jobs based on key targeted results
to determine the critical few talents that distinguish top performers
from average performers in each role.
• The fast pace of the organization and/or the manager has created a
tendency to rush through the interview process and make hires with-
out careful evaluations.
• Senior leaders have failed to establish a rigorous talent evaluation
process, both for new hires and for current employees, as part of the
career/succession planning process.
• Senior leaders and managers have overpromoted the idea of ˜˜select-
ing the best™™ instead of ˜˜selecting the best ¬t,™™ which often results
in the hiring of college graduates with the best grades or from the

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

best schools who do not always ¬t the culture or excel in the roles


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