Mass Exodus To The Promised Land

Since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the country has been witnessing a mass exodus of White House staff and some elected officials. This administration’s ability to retain qualified staff have many saying that this could be one of the most dysfunctional White House’s in modern history. The prestige of working in DC attracts the best of the best and working for an administration was considered to be some of the most coveted career jobs in government and yet, finding top talent to fill these positions is slowly ticking into crisis mode because it results to having an under staffed government.

Why does this matter and how does relate to workforce development? Washington is a business and the president is the CEO. The organizational culture he’s established has become the new norm and it’s impacting organizational “DC” behaviors and the White House’s employee brand.

A CEO’s actions or the failure to take action sets the tone for an organization’s behavior and culture. Not acknowledging or addressing the dysfunction an organization may be experiencing does not abdicate the CEO or President from being responsible and accountable for it. Staff look to leadership for how and what’s acceptable and appropriate and without this direction, outcomes and deliverables suffer. An organization’s employee brand will take a hit and make it challenging to attract great talent. More importantly, the toxicity eventually leads to high turn overs.

According to,  employee turnovers can cost an organization anywhere from $45,000 to $150,000 to replace an employee. In addition to the financial cost, companies lose institutional knowledge, productivity and loss revenues. There’s also the cost of training the new person. If there’s a trend of staff leaving aka a mass exodus, the morale of the remaining staff can take a hit.

What do you do? Organizational cultures can draw great talent or drive them away. Be that company that great talent compete to work for. Here’s some areas to consider if you are experiencing high turnovers.

  • An organization’s culture must align with the mission and vision. If it doesn’t, be ready to make the changes needed. The right organizational culture can be an intrinsic reward used to attract top talent.
  • Transactional work has to be done but if there isn’t a balance of work that is meaningful, staff can feel under valued and will begin to seek employment elsewhere. Give staff an opportunity to use their knowledge, skills and abilities.
  • Having the autonomy to work independently fosters a culture of accountability that is embraced because employees are empowered. Empowered staff are self directed and a thriving staff. Check out for tips on empowering your staff. 
  • Teamwork makes the dream work but if an employee’s efforts and contributions are not acknowledged the dream can become a nightmare. Positive feedback works and builds rapport when an employee can see how their work and efforts connect to the organization’s big picture.
  • Relationships between staff and their direct reports and coworkers matter. They need to be authentic. Toxic relationships undermine employee engagement, confidence, and commitment. Striking the right balance is key.

Being aware of your environment and being ready to address any areas identified as opportunities for improvement is key. Having a non biased third party HR professional  come in to assist in assessing your organization’s needs can be helpful in developing a retention and engagement plan with an evaluation element to determine which strategies would have the best impact for employee retention. Last but not least, make this an organization wide initiative by encouraging staff to be the change they want to see by participating in the process.

Why Complain? No one’s Listening Anyway.

Great as an icebreaker when connecting with a friend, not so great when it’s your staff. This statement is a death sentence to morale and employee engagement for an organization who has not established policies that provide channels of communication that are “safe” and “employee friendly” for employees to voice concerns free from the fear of retribution.

It’s not enough to listen and make suggestions. Employees want results. Even if you can not resolve the issue and deliver the outcome(s) desired, if you are consistent in following through, your actions are interpreted as being authentic and transparent. Anything else is lip service. No one likes a talking head.

Trust is lost, apathy grows and communication breaks down, when employees believe they are not being heard. In any relationship, no one wants to feel neglected. No one stays in a relationship where they see no signs of their partner changing the behavior that is causing the relationship to be strained.

Developing a culture and employee brand where your staff is engaged is possible. Here’s what you can do to have your organizational culture align with your missions and vision and incorporate an authentic “open door policy”.

  • If your door is open, your objectivity must be as well. Managers and supervisors can not take concerns or grievances personally and they must refrain from reacting to what is being shared. Creating opportunities to model effective feedback will help in setting a standard in how to voice a concern and gives managers practice in how to properly respond.
  • Establish what your employee brand will be. People talk, especially disgruntled employees. What they say about your organization has an impact on your ability to recruit top talent.
  • Make sure your organization’s policies and procedures align with your mission/vision statements and strategic plans. If they communicate an organizational culture that has a human capital asset based approach to HR, then your policies can not have language that aligns with a liability approach.
  • Develop a clear and understandable grievance policy. Have the staff get involved. Make sure the process feels safe and free from retribution.
  • Celebrate the new policy. Who wants to sit for a boring workshop. Present “our” new policy and thank everyone for being a stakeholder in the process.
  • Most importantly implement. You are committing organizational suicide if you take your staff through a process of brainstorming, feedback surveys and one on ones to develop a desired organizational culture and there is no follow through and/or failure to implement in a timely fashion.
  • If there is no action, prepare for an exodus. Your staff may show up but I assure you they have mentally checked out. Once an employee is no longer engaged, apathy sets in. An apathetic, dissatisfied employee will cost you more than an employee who leaves because they are on your payroll and not producing to their optimal ability.

Having the organizational culture you envision is possible. Your HR department is integral in creating this culture. If your organization is small and your budget doesn’t afford you the luxury of hiring a Strategic Human Resource Manager, you may want to consider outsourcing.

Today’s workforce demands for organizations to be proactive and not reactive. SHRM’s are business partners that can help your organization have the culture a 21st Century workforce would thrive in.

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