The Number One Reason Talented People Stay In Their Roles- True For You?

Hunter ValleyI was half listening to the corporate anthropologist ( I mean- really!) talking about culture when he said something that grabbed my attention. It was the reason he gave for why talented people stay in their roles. It really surprised me. A lot. Here it is. What do you think?

The vines of the Hunter Valley welcomed 150 of Australia’s most senior advertising/media industry executives this week (oh, and I was there too) for a short, sharp session about the future in this industry- trends, challenges, opportunity. An early hot topic was talent- how to find great talent, and keep it. Michael Henderson, a culture expert, took the stage and shared many insights. What resonated were the five top reasons why top talent chose to stay with an organization. It was enlightening. It’s the Number One driver that surprised me the most. Here it is. What do you think about this as the reason that the most talented people stay with their organizations?

The number one driver, by far, why talented people stay in their roles is that they want to leave a legacy.

I like that. It makes sense. On reflection, it’s clear the best people I’ve worked with are absolutely driven to make a difference and make a mark. Rarely about themselves and their personal brands- almost always about the team, what they can achieve, great work, great relationships, growth, leadership, innovation, recognition.

This is what creates the ‘mystical power of we’– when you get a small group of talented and driven executives working together to create something special. Big things happen. They change the game. It’s intoxicating and addictive while it lasts. And they leave a legacy which genuinely lives on. And of which they are enormously proud. Always.

Quickly, before I ask you a key question, here are the next four drivers of why talented people stay in their roles:

2. Sense of belonging: they want to work with other talented people; they don’t want to be the best- they want to work alongside the best.

3. They want personal growth– self-actualization, they strive to discover who they are, and what they can become

4. and a long way behind the other three, the rank or title

5. And last, the money.

Organizations where talent retention is the highest tend to have three common attributes: a) leaders worth following, b) work worth doing, and c) a culture worth contributing to. Leaders worth following, by the way, are generally those who have credibility to be in their roles, and who are approachable. And talented people usually quit (oh, they might tell you it’s for the money, but that’s not true- you’re so unapproachable they don’t tell you the truth) because of these three reasons: a) they quit their boss- the leader is not worth following, b) the work is boring, and c) the culture has become toxic.

Question For You: What Will Your Legacy Be?

So – you are in a role now doing a job. What is your legacy going to be when you are promoted to another department, move to another company, retire? Have you thought about it? If so, good- tell me the answer. If not- good- give it some thought now. What are you trying to achieve in your role that will make a difference and make a mark. What will your legacy be when you move on?

I reckon it’s a topic worth spending some time getting clarity on. That clarity might bring with it enormous inspiration. Give it a go!

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9 Responses to The Number One Reason Talented People Stay In Their Roles- True For You?

  1. peter salt October 16, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    as insightful as ever Chris. There’s a level of awareness of these things out there but it’s nice to see them articulated in quite this way. Nice summation.

    • Chris Savage October 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks Peter!

  2. Chandler Nguyen October 16, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Absolutely spot on Chris!
    I completely agree on number 1 and 2.

  3. Jim Roy October 16, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    So true.
    Hand on heart in management roles I can say I have left a legacy this twice in 11 years (and the people that followed me told me so – which is great to hear)
    In my current role am now following a very talented director who left his own – so I am trying to build/leave mine for sure.
    Good point, well made.

    • Chris Savage October 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Thanks Jim!

  4. Johnny October 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    A well known and used framework talks about 7 factors for Staff Engagement.
    And each staff will have different priorities on those.
    And those priorities will also change over time.

    Those factors are:
    1. Purpose
    2. Leadership
    3. Opportunity
    4. Fulfillment
    5. Balance
    6. Rewards
    7. Relationships

  5. John Buckley October 17, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    Why would someone want to limit their legacy to a single role with one organization? I would think many talented people would leave a current role to extend their legacy.

  6. Aryeh Sternberg October 18, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Very insightful. I think point 3 is a core point to pay attention to for the leaders; even with a kick butt team of awesome people (yes, “awesomeness” is a skill on LinkedIn) and the opportunity ti achieve greatness, without a chance to learn and grow some of the younger smart people might choose to move on – from the massive agency to the small indie, from the established tech company to the exciting wave-making startup . . . SPUR is one way to give opportunities to learn, what else can the leaders do internally to allow ongoing growth and skill-building – that can be directly tied to new products/services and opportunities for the business?

  7. Karen Thorne June 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    Thank you for making me think of where I’m at right now. I am looking into moving on at the moment for some of those very reasons mentioned.

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