Understanding what it takes to attract and keep top talent engaged is important. However, sometimes the reasons why top talent will leave an organization are more telling. Some leading employee disengagement factors causing top talent (at all levels) to leave an organization are:
Leadership practices: Sub-optimal practices like “talk but no walk”; favoritism
Succession planning: Lack of clear career progression path; “glass ceiling”
Diversity Practices: “Glass ceiling”; gender discrimination
Compensation: Unable to match competition; poor administrative practices
It is wise for organizations concerned with the retention of top talent to collect employee engagement data from this specific group of employees while they continue to be employed. Once top talent leave an organization, it becomes more difficult to collect employee disengagement data. While conducting effective exit interviews with top talent is valuable – a challenge exists in designing and conducting the exit interview with questions which are critical to allowing exiting top talent employees to share their experiences and reasons for leaving, without the fear of impacting references or future re-employability. Making the process as anonymous as possible is important to the collection of accurate data.
Our own research shows that top talent considers being provided external coaching for leadership development a highly desirable benefit, and recognition of their value to the organization. These employees are able to make the distinction between the role of an internal coach and an external coach, as it relates to their own career development. While internal coaching/mentoring continues to be an important and valued process, receiving confidential, external career development advice and counsel carries considerable currency with them.
Organizations that are considering investing in robust internal coaching programs, may wonder why we advocate the need for external coaching. Consider the following questions:
- Are the behaviors and skills it took to become a successful executive 10-15 years ago the same as what they are today/ will be in the future?
- Are coaches recommended by the organization perceived as credible and/or ‘trustworthy’ by the coachee?
- Do internal coaches and mentors best represent the transferable leadership skills of where the organization is headed?
- Are internal coaches and mentors equipped with the skills and knowledge to be an effective executive coach?
- Do internal coaches have the time and level of commitment required to dedicate themselves to the success of those they are coaching?
- Who is coaching/mentoring the coaches?
There continues to be a perception that once an executive has “made it” to the top, she has learned all they need to know about what it takes to be a successful executive. By the very reason of their own professional success, they have what it takes to be a coach. This may not necessarily be the case. Additionally, as many professional therapists have learned, every good coach needs a coach! But who internally is able to coach this group?
Successful coaching can inspire personal responsibility and direct involvement in the business success of an organization. Any key executive can benefit from coaching; the only prerequisite is receptivity to change. We believe that only by encouraging and instilling this sort of individual commitment and participation will companies thrive in the ever more competitive environment characteristic of the 21stcentury.
For that reason, we view executive coaching as a positive, one-on-one process aimed at promoting growth. Coaching is a way of providing the coachee with an objective, third-party perspective that quickly results in opportunities for constructive change.
The coaching practice is recognized by successful companies as providing benefits through the assistance that is provided in addressing complex career issues related to their valued employees. It also provides a structure through which they can provide executives and managers the opportunity to develop skills and achieve greater results by consulting with a professional guide.
In conclusion, the benefits of coaching are contagious. Employees of leaders that have engaged in structured coaching programs begin to emulate the positive behaviours they see demonstrated by their manager. These benefits, when sustained, can become wide-spread both vertically and horizontally throughout the company, and ultimately change the environment, creating a culture that fosters optimal business performance and sustainable competitive advantage.