Elite Talent: Why Do They Leave?

Clark Beecher, managing partner and co-founder of Beecher Reagan Advisors, recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss why top talent often looks for greener pastures – and how to keep high impact performers from jumping ship. 

September 12, 2018 – Finding ways to attract the best and brightest people to their clients remains a major challenge for the world’s leading executive search professionals. A strong economy coupled with the ease of competing for and landing fresh work elsewhere often leads many top employees to look around. And that is leading HR heads to worry about how to retain their best people from jumping ship.

CEOs, in particular, should not presume that a strong but turbulent economy dissuades top talent from pursuing a multitude of career goals. The most seasoned business chiefs, in fact, are constantly and proactively developing strategies to motivate and retain their top performers no matter what the economic signals are, recruiters say.

Harvard professor Michael Watkins recently commented on the forces that stand to pull many valuable leaders away from their current jobs. “There is tremendous pent-up demand for new opportunities and advancement among high-potential leaders,” he said. In the end, the responsibility for keeping those top players from departing rests with the individual at the top of the organization’s pyramid.” And that is the CEO.

So, what keeps top employees tethered to their jobs? According to the Randstad Employer Brand Research report, we know what doesn’t hold them in place: unsatisfactory compensation (44 percent), a limited career path (43 percent) and insufficient challenges (30 percent) are three key reasons that employees cite for looking for work elsewhere. For 28 percent, work-life balance issues cause people to leave. And 27 percent are driven away by a lack of recognition from their employer.

Holding Onto Your Elite Talent

In this episode of ‘Talent Talks,’ explore the latest news in retaining elite talent with our host Andrew Mitchell and Clark Beecher, managing partner at Beecher Reagan Advisors. “There is not enough talent moving up today to fuel the leadership gaps we expect in the future,” said Mr. Beecher. “It is important to understand what motivates people and what their goals are in order to retain them long term.” Listen now.

Clark Beecher, managing partner and co-founder of Beecher Reagan Advisors, is well versed in how companies can, and often do, retain their top talent. He has spent most of his career advising management consulting, technology services and business advisory service firms on building and growing their industry, functional and expanding geographical practice areas.

For over 15 years, he has led and successfully completed searches for some of the world’s leading professional services’ firms, including: Accenture, AlixPartners, A.T. Kearney, Oliver Wyman, Bain & Company, the Boston Consulting Group, Booz Allen Hamilton, Infosys, IBM, McKinsey & Company and Schlumberger Business Consulting. Mr. Clark also advises Fortune 100 corporations and alternative investment firms on sourcing and attracting consulting talent in-house.

Related: 5 Ways to Improve Employee Retention

Mr. Beecher recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the top reasons why talented executives leave their jobs and what companies can do to prevent it from happening in an active job market. Following are excerpts from that interview.


Clark, how much does today’s candidate-driven job market impact top employees looking elsewhere for opportunities?

Candidate driven markets have created free agency in both the private and public sectors. Along with it, candidates are looking at what opportunities are available to them more than they used to. In some cases, we are seeing this ‘job hopping’ as a more favorable attribute for the simple reason that many believe it shows an individual’s desire for professional growth. As a result, companies are embracing candidates that have moved around for greater opportunity and reward.

Related: Top Hurdles for Finding and Retaining Top Talent

What are some of the biggest reasons that top candidates leave organizations?

The main reason we see top talent leave is stagnation in opportunity and reward. The reality is if you are not growing, you are dying. In the past, that has been used a lot when talking about a business, but it is also true for people and their careers. If a leader is sitting behind two to three leaders, someone is going to find them and give them that golden ticket out to something better. Elite leaders and high performance / high impact professionals are worth more today than we have ever seen. Companies, therefore, are willing to invest quite a bit to get them.

“The main reason we see top talent leave is stagnation in opportunity and reward. The reality is if you are not growing, you are dying.”

How to Keep Your Best Performers from Becoming a Flight Risk
The cost of failing to retain top talent can be steep on many levels. That’s why leaders make it a priority to manage their best performers before they start to think about taking another job. Nancie Whitehouse, of Whitehouse Advisors, reveals what top performers want most from their companies. 

What can companies do best to prevent their high performers from jumping ship?

We are seeing more restrictive covenants in non-compete/solicit language, but that is not enough. Non-competes do not always work, but employment contracts with claw backs have been the newest trend. We are seeing more aggressive financial claw backs and milestone rewards. They have a better likelihood of working. You could say that employers are hitting people who want to jump ship where it really matters: in their pocketbooks. But that does not address any of the important underlying reasons as to why they want to leave in the first place.

Related: Failure to Develop, Engage and Retain Talent Is Growing

Are there any roles or positions where you see this happening more?

We specialize in professional and technology services and we are seeing it often happen in these sectors. In these businesses, their professional assets walk in and out of the door every day. Employers are doing a good job in structuring contracts that make the candidate think twice about jumping ship. So if individuals do decide to jump, employers make it costly for the acquiring firm to compensate the candidates due to their leave-behinds. But as I said, this does not address any underlying cause.

What do high performers look for in companies?

White space. I still believe elite candidates move for opportunity, not because they are unhappy where they are currently. There are three things people look for today: build and grow opportunity, monetization of their craft and work-life balance. If an organization can offer this career trifecta they are most likely to keep their best talent happy and in place.

Related: Retaining New Hires Now Seen As a Critical Issue

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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