Salary, geography, burnout—all valid reasons for anyone, especially executives, to seek a job change, and there isn’t always a lot an employer can do. Replacing dynamic, rising leaders is challenging—and expensive. Statistics vary wildly about the dollar figure to replace good employees. By some estimates, turnover costs run from a conservative 30 percent of salary for entry-level employees to 150 percent of salary for mid-level executives and 400 percent or more for senior executives. The intangible costs are many and difficult to predict or define. In most cases, it makes sense to work to retain a deserving up-and-comer as opposed to paying a $100,000-plus tab and taking a risk with a new executive.
It is in companies’ best interest to make sure they are engaging and cultivating talented executives, such as directors and senior managers, with training, work/life balance and the right kind of communication. In health care, the field in which I work most, there is a lot of movement among young executives who are seeking to build their resumes and try new roles. I see this activity among, for example, marketing, IT, business development, physician leadership, and service line leadership positions. These are pressure-cooker environments that test an executive’s ability to stay in a job for a long tenure.
Here are some suggestions that, in my experience, organizations can follow to keep executives content:
• Provide opportunities for career growth—and communicate them. The best rising executives are those interested in constantly improving. Saying that your organization values training and actually giving the time off to individuals to attend seminars and conferences are two different things. Another factor is financial support of that training. Performance evaluation time is a good opportunity to outline in writing training expectations and your support of those activities. This will give the employee a chance to give feedback, and then your firm can negotiate if there is a disconnect. Being flexible as opportunities arise during the year is also critical.
Take time to debrief with executives after they attend career development events or training. Schedule lunches and explore some of the topics discussed and how your rising stars plan to use new knowledge in upcoming situations.
• Keep pay and benefits front and center. Be sure to regularly communicate the total value of the compensation and rewards package that executives receive. Whatever compensation and benefits your company devotes (salary, bonuses, healthcare, vacation, stock options, profit sharing, education, training etc.), be sure that executives are aware of all that’s included. The grass often looks greener at other organizations from a salary perspective, but people need to be reminded (at least annually) of the full package they get within your organization.
• Follow through on work/life balance. This is something that is not always addressed, but has become increasingly more important in the work force. Large businesses have had balance policies and culture in place for many years. The challenge appears in smaller businesses, which have fewer workers to pick up the slack at any given time, especially at the executive level. In this time of 24/7 connectivity, it seems as if no one is ever out of the office. This is where Millennials—the workforce born roughly between 1980 and 2000—can teach more mature workers a thing or two. Many of these younger workers have been brought up with the expectation of work/life balance and look for this as a given when choosing an employer. Millennials prefer organizations that are flexible and value their unique way of looking at life and careers. One way to retain Millennials is to give them chances to engage with different generations in the workplace, to exchange ideas and have cross-pollination. That is, give Millennials opportunities to teach their older colleagues, with the understanding that they can learn from these colleagues, as well.
Be open-minded to executives’ working from home or with flexible hours. Most dynamic professionals appreciate being given the latitude to get things done in a way that fits their personal or family lifestyle (and cuts down on commute time). Don’t make people feel guilty about taking time off. It is there for a reason. Executives will have the common sense to not leave on the day of a huge deadline or in the middle of preparing for a client presentation. Having the right balance between important business meetings and important soccer games is something many executives are seeking.
• Be a progressive organization. Organizations that are breaking boundaries and making changes also are attracting more open-minded and innovative thinkers. One thing often overlooked is the importance of cultural fit. Many executives start to look around when they don’t feel connected to the philosophy or values of their current organizations. In health care, this is related to the consolidation that’s taking place since cultures are shifting in many organizations going through significant change.
One way to present a savvy image is through communication. Of course, social media plays an important role in most businesses today. Often, organizations’ Website and links to other popular networking sites can be used to broadcast accomplishments. Consciously seeking to be named a great place to work by an independent organization that publishes such lists annually is also a good way to demonstrate the progressive culture of the organization.
Good executives and other professionals want to work for progressive organizations that provide work/life balance and opportunities for career growth. Providing this culture will help you keep your investment in executive talent. Failing to provide it could be an impetus for turnover.
David Boggs is practice leader at WK Advisors/a division of Witt/Kieffer offering mid-level executive search consulting services. WK Advisors provides a high-quality solution to recruiting administrative and clinical department directors and assistant vice presidents. As practice leader, Boggs identifies mid-tier management team leaders on behalf of hospitals, health-care systems, academic medical centers, medical schools, and managed care companies. Early in his career, Boggs spent five years at Witt/Kieffer as a search consultant. From there, he served for 10 years as vice president of Dalton Boggs & Associates, a boutique search firm. His clients included not-for-profit and faith-based acute-care hospitals, national and local insurance companies including HMOs, PPOs, and related managed care companies, and a variety of physician group practices and clinics. Prior to his career in executive search, Boggs spent several years running a hospital-owned physician network as well as working in human resources in a hospital and managed care company.