6 Keys to Success Amid the “Great Employee Exodus” of 2013

Success Strategy #6 for Transformational Change Leaders

by Robert S. Tipton

If the predictions I read for the US (in particular) become reality, the 2013 workplace will include a tsunami of change.

No — this change will not be in the type of work we’re doing, nor in the technologies we’ll be using.

Instead, the change will be the mass emigration from current employers and immigration to new employers.

As our economy stabilizes (albeit slowly), and as some levels of certainty start to reemerge in our financial markets (regardless of “who” wins the 2012 presidential election, some certainty will return), the world of work will begin the shed some of its dysfunction and coercive management styles.

As a result of these factors, I’m calling 2013 the year of the “Great Employee Exodus.”

Research to support this notion comes from two major sources: 1) About a year ago, the US Department of Labor predicted that 1 in 3 employees would shift to another employer as soon as the economy improved; and 2) Right Management (a division of Manpower) suggested in its November 2011 research that a whopping 84% of all working Americans were “actively” looking for another job. I’ve got to believe that number is at least as high now.

Now — 1 in 3 of working Americans translates into about 50 MILLION people moving from one employer to another.


However, there are “silver linings to the grey clouds” as the old saying goes.

One thing is for sure, 2013 will be a FANTASTIC year to be a commission-based recruiter. Even bad recruiters will have a huge candidate pool from which to choose, and desperate organizations looking to stem the bleeding will be eager to pay up.

The other side of the coin? It’ll be a tough year to be in the HR profession for “most” organizations… The exception will be those lead by transformational change leaders — who employ the “6 Ways to Succeed Amid the ‘Great Brain Drain’ of 2013” I include below.

Read on. Get prepared. Enjoy a silver lining. Succeed even amid the tsunami of job changers coming in 2013.

1) Ensure Your Organizational Vision is STILL Relevant

Sometimes major market shifts are opportunities in disguise… Especially at times like these, we need to take an objective, detailed, self-less look at the “why” behind our organizations. It just depends on our willingness to be “learners” as the new dynamics shape up.

Is what we’re doing still differentiated in the market? Is our business vision REALLY relevant? Take this exercise seriously because irrelevant organizations will be “culled from the herd” as the brain drain sets in.

Oh — and it’s vital too to examine the role our ego plays in the big picture. Times of great change are rarely times to do “ego-boosting,” although a majority of folks out there (in my experience) tend to do exactly that during times of uncertainty. In other words, when things get difficult on the outside people tend to retreat inside, and start fortifying the defenses against “being wrong” about anything.

Here’s some wisdom from Jim Collins, the best-selling author of Good to Great:

“Level five leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company through a blend of humility and professional will. Their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”

Jim’s lesson is clear — especially in times of significant change — transformational change leaders need to ensure the relevance of our organizations (and not our egos). Period.

2) Live in Reality Related to the Changing Generations in the Workforce

I’ve heard a WHOLE lot of whining from some organizations related to the changing nature of the workforce. However, just as I showed in my post about the “9 Stages of Transformational Change,” those who say, “If Only” are denying the present.

You’ve heard something like this too, I’m sure: “If only Gen Y’s would have a work ethic like baby boomers…”

Some relevant data: Boomers? About 80 million in the US. Gen X? Only about 40 million of them — so we can’t replace all the boomers with X’ers. Gen Y? About 80 million of them also — so boomers will be replaced with a combination of Gen Ys and Gen X’ers. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in our society — where the “replacement” generation is smaller than the “replaced” generation.

So what?

Well, that’s where the diversity comes in… Boomers look at careers, 401Ks, planning for retirement, job loyalty, etc. in an ENTIRELY different way that Gen Y’s in particular. Y’s don’t think “career,” they think, “gig.” And, they want to work somewhere that “speaks” to them in a meaningful, altruistic way. 401K? That’s for my grandparents…

To thrive in the brain drain of 2013 we need to LEVERAGE the ongoing diversification of the workforce and find synergy, not complaint. Finding 1 + 1 = 3 combinations in a workforce of boomers, Gen X and Gen Y will separate the winners from the losers in 2013 and beyond — I’m convinced of it.

3) Embrace Fun as a Competitive Advantage

I have a very good friend, Dan Clemens, whose professional life is devoted to the notion that fun in the workplace is a sizable competitive advantage. Dan’s message comes from his years as a highly-successful coach in the world of competitive athletics (football, baseball, basketball) — and it has little to do with goofy, practical-joking, class-clowning kinds of things.

Instead, Dan looks at workplace fun being measured by three things: 1) a chance to continue to learn (sharpening our saws, according to Stephen Covey); 2) the right level of tension between being challenged and having things be too easy (feeling like you have to work a bit — all the time — to be successful, but not looking at goals as being unachievable and therefore pointless); and 3) a healthy working environment where dysfunction, mistrust, and “mean spirited” behaviors are not allowed.

Not only is a fun working environment important to keeping your current employees engaged and working at their maximum level of productivity, it’s VITAL to ensuring you will be competitive in hiring the cream of the crop of the employees sure to come your way during 2013.

4) Consistently Remain in a Place of Maximum Potential for New Employees

Maintaining a posture of genuine market differentiation (as opposed to advertising-based differentiation) is a little like trying to land a plane on an aircraft carrier, in a pitching, rolling sea, at night. The target is consistently shifting, and we have to maneuver continuously to respond to the changing conditions.

But, when it happens — when we’re on the path — when our organization is clearly in alignment and has “called the ball” effectively (to use a “Top Gun” metaphor), the world lines up at our door and works to ensure our success.

This is ESPECIALLY true for potential employees in 2013. “Being” a great place to work is far different that “convincing people” that our organization is a great place to work. In other words, “who” is saying our organization is great — the HR department? Or is it the blogs, the social media channels, the “general market” buzz? Does that make sense?

Take nothing for granted here… The word about our organizations spreads like wildfire in the blogosphere — just be sure the word is “ABSOLUTELY” for your organization when it comes to “would I like to work there?”

5) Compassionately “Coach Out” Mismatched Employees

Given the fact that 2013 is shaping up to be a bonanza for employees looking to make job changes, it also represents one of the best times in recent memory to compassionately “coach out” underperforming, mismatched, and unhappy employees.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not espousing the idea of pushing people out of an organization for “involuntary” reasons. This is NOT an excuse for massive layoffs or reductions in force. Far from it.

Instead, call me corny, but I believe when our passion is directly connected to our working life, it’s better for our health, our relationships, and our lives overall! If someone is not performing to their best abilities, or is clearly mismatched between their passion and their doing, a job market like 2013 gives both the employer and the employee a chance to “make a different, better” choice moving forward.

Given the right approach (authentic compassion, real assistance), helping mismatched employees move to a better situation benefits everyone involved.

6) Read Your Data AND Trust Your Instincts

No doubt, to succeed amid the Great Brain Drain of 2013 we will need to “do” what’s necessary. However, those of us that succeed at the highest levels will be those who are able to balance their left-brains (analysis, data, trends, proformas, business intelligence systems, etc.) with their right-brains (gut feel, intuition, social media relationships, etc.).

With the proliferation of bloggers, tabloid TV shows, sound-bite approach to news, and our increasingly important “comment on this” society, emotions are playing a MUCH larger role in how we make decisions.

We are becoming a society that chooses with our hearts, and THEN validates with our heads — in that order. People rarely make decisions solely on intellect or data these days…

Become a Gravitational Force in the World of Employment

Transformational change leaders will transform the “Great Brain Drain of 2013” into the “Great Brain GAIN of 2013” as we follow the 6 Keys to Success:

  • Objectively evaluate our vision and keep egos in check
  • Concentrate on higher productivity through fun environments
  • Leverage synergies in a diversifying workforce
  • Remain maniacal about showcasing our organizations as “great places” to work
  • Compassionate help unhappy employees make different, better choices
  • Listen to both our heads and our hearts when evaluating our success

Once again, get prepared.

Find the silver lining.

Succeed in a tsunami of change related to employee migration!


For More On Transformational Change Leadership,
Please Check Out These Other Posts from Our Blog:

• 3 Steps to Eliminate Leadership Anxiety
• Want to Do Something New? Start As a Beginner!
• What ‘Wants To’ Happen for You Today?
• How You See the Future Changes Everything!
• Get a Renewed Attitude and Stop ‘Managing’ Change!
• 9 Stages of Transformational Change
• 5 Essential Behaviors of Transformational Change Leaders
• 7 Core Beliefs of Transformational Change Leaders

Looking for a Transformational Change Keynote Speaker? Look No Further…


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