7 Reasons Your Top Performers Will Leave In 2010

Nov 5, 2009

A recent spate of surveys and commentary confirm what has become clear from my conversations with top performers over the last eight to ten weeks: many of them will move jobs as soon as their existing employer is in recovery from the recent economic collapse – some as early as Q1 2010.Why now? Why change jobs when things are getting better, not worse?

7. Weariness

Exhaustion, plain and simple. It’s been a tough two to three years, and your top performers are tired. And you know the saying – ‘A change is as good as a rest‘.

6. Trust

Trust in authority has taken a battering during this last downturn, and you are the public face of trust for your top performers. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong and everything right, even if you’re held in high regard individually, you represent the untrustworthy old guard. They’ll move somewhere new to start rebuilding that trust.

5. Fit

Like an old set of dentures, your veteran top performers don’t ‘fit’ in the organization as well as they did. You’ve changed, the business has changed, the industry has changed and they’ve changed. What was once a seamless relationship now has irritating edges, chips and crevices.

4. Spring, Easter, Bunnies, etc.

Business-wise this last few years have felt like winter to many people, and your top performers are no exception. They’ve been loyal enough to stay the course while things were really tough, but as soon as there’s a change in season, and they can honestly say they’ve seen you through the worst of it, they’ll go to warmer climes to start something new and fresh.

3. Challenge

Top performers want new, positive challenges. They can only thrive on negative challenges for so long. Your competitor’s hiring process emphasizes new challenges, your 2010 ‘maintenance and recovery’ plan does not.

2. Impact

Top performers need to feel they’re making a real difference. Nothing is more frustrating to them than a sense of stagnation. Right now, your organization reeks of stagnation (‘s not your fault – it’s just a fact).

To them, your competitor looks like a bright new opportunity to make a real impact. And of course, your competitor will ensure that the opportunity to do so will be front and center in their hiring process (whether it’s true or not).

1. Control

The #1 reason your top performers will leave next year is simple: to restore a sense of control over their lives. They have dedicated the last few years to loyally doing things they don’t enjoy and wouldn’t do naturally (retrenching, firing people, taking back tasks they’d long since delegated), and as soon as they can look in the mirror and honestly say they’ve got you over the hump, they’ll go elsewhere, to restore the sense that they are once more in control of their own destiny.

None of this is inevitable, but unless you make changes now, it is very likely to happen. Next up – what to do to keep your top performers.