All Articles Leadership Management Part 2 of the values schism: Corporate America needs to get real

Part 2 of the values schism: Corporate America needs to get real

3 min read


In my last post about how there is a growing schism between the values held by employees and those held by their employers, and how it’s driving employees out the door.

I noted that 54% of millenials are planning on leaving their firms to try entrepreneurship. This is a big number, but even that is dwarfed by a study by Harris Interactive that found 74% of employees of all ages would look for another job if they could. The reasons? According to Alan Hall, Accenture reports that 31% don’t like their boss, 31% feel unempowered, 35% are tired of internal politics and 43% don’t feel recognized for their work.

A 74% level of employee dissatisfaction represents a costly vulnerability for companies, especially as affordable health care and technology reduce the costs for employees to take the risk of entrepreneurship. Projecting forward, the cost to a dissatisfied employee going out on their own is going down as a percentage of their annual salary, while the relative costs to the employer to replace them are on the rise. Today employers can spend 150% or more of a skilled employee’s annual salary recruiting and training their replacements.

While the cost to replace a low-skilled worker is decidedly less than this, many of the people leaving are the most emotionally intelligent and creative. When so many analysts point to both these qualities as keys to competitiveness, on a company- and economy-wide scale, creative brains draining from cubeville should be of concern to employers (though it might actually be good news for the entrepreneurial economy.

While the warning bells are going off in human resources departments, most executives tell themselves stories about what’s really happening that put the solution outside their control. Most of these stories are simply wrong.

  • Women aren’t leaving the workforce to go have babies. In fact, working mothers participate in the workforce at a higher rate than men.
  • Millennials and 20- and 30-somethings aren’t lazy kids with no work ethic. Rather, they value results, autonomy and the opportunity to make a difference.
  • Employees on the whole aren’t disgruntled because they’re unmotivated or uninterested in profits; rather, they feel unappreciated and unempowered by organizations that value profits at the expense of almost everything else, including them.

The stories that are not reverberating around the halls of corporate America, which should be, are that women are finally winning the self-esteem war with themselves and going where their particular leadership talents be recognized and valued. Employees are living a blended work and life reality and are no longer content to live the value of profit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or later) and compartmentalize their personal values to 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. They want to be living their personal values 24/7 and balancing corporate profit pursuits with more holistic interests in sustainability, health, compassion, design, purpose and meaning.

What employers should be talking about is how many opportunities they have to begin a rich and meaningful conversation with their employees (and customers) about what really matters — and how a company that values these things can tap (and retain) the creative, educated and motivated talent in pursuit of a new kind of success.

Dana Theus is president and CEO of InPower Consulting, reframing leadership to integrate the emotional intelligence lessons learned from studying women leaders. Dana is also a personal brand coach and a regular contributor to SmartBlog on Leadership. Follow her on Twitter at @DanaTheus and on LinkedIn.