Gallup's latest State of the American Workplace report is eye-opening, to say the least, if you care about hiring and retaining star talent. The findings led Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, to say, "The very practice of management no longer works. The old ways no longer achieve the intended results."

Why such an aggressive stance? For starters, the report says the majority of employees (51 percent) are now searching for new jobs or watching for openings.

The 212 page report is filled with alarming statistics. I pulled out the five most telling stats and offer advice to help with your talent attraction and retention strategies.

1. 78 percent of employees are not convinced their leaders have a clear direction for the organization.


Job one as a leader is to set a clear direction based on solid strategies and stretching (yet attainable) goals. To set especially effective goals, be certain that the goals are relevant, meaningful and have been developed collaboratively with those who will be held to them (the study also showed only 30 percent of employees said they were involved in goal-setting).

Ensure company goals tie directly to employee's individual goals and set clear expectations (56 percent of employees said their goals didn't tie to company goals while a troubling 40 percent said they weren't clear on what was expected of them).

So, you say you've done all that as a leader?

Be careful of the next step then--you need to effectively communicate the direction, strategy, and goals, over and over and over. An astonishing 87 percent of employees do not strongly agree that their leaders communicate effectively with the organization.

I've experienced this personally being a leader on a team that I thought had set crystal clear direction. Turns out the lack of frequency in communicating that direction was killing us--and it showed in employee surveys. It's a lesson I never forgot. Learn from me.

2. 88 percent of employees would switch to a job that allows flexible work arrangements.

This includes flextime (working a flexible set of hours versus a standard 9 to 5 schedule) and the ability to work offsite at least part of the time. The desire for flexibility came up repeatedly in the study. It appeared as the top perk/job benefit desired and was even more desired among millennials (versus boomers or Gen X'ers).

While some jobs aren't suited to working from home (like retail or assembly line work for example), all jobs can be infused with a sense of flexibility via things like pliable work schedules or flexible time periods to go to doctor appointments or pick kids up from school. If you're a leader, it's time to meld flexibility into your work processes.

3. Only 23 percent of employees agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback.

The lack of feedback includes praise too, with only 3 in 10 employees strongly agreeing that they've recently received recognition or praise for good work.  It's worth noting that receiving feedback is even more important for millennials.

Leaders simply must prioritize giving frequent feedback to employees. Here's help in giving feedback effectively but for starters, simply commit to the act and remember that research shows the right ratio of positive feedback to corrective feedback is about 5:1. Which should make sense since people tend to do a lot more good than they do "bad".

4. Only 3 in 10 employees say that someone at work encourages their development.

Again, this is a factor even more important among millennials as 87 percent rated opportunities to learn and grown as critical but only 39 percent strongly agreed that in the past month they learned something new that improved performance.

That's a formula for brain drain.

Leaders must have an intentional learning plan for each employee that includes a career plan with opportunities to stretch and grow. It's no longer a nice to have or something reserved for only the most progressive, others-oriented leaders.  More than anything, it takes intentionality.

5. Only 12 percent of employees say their company does a great job of onboarding new hires.

This one really surprised me. If first impressions count, we're blowing it.

Onboarding doesn't have to be elaborate. Research from Microsoft executives showed how important it is to just make sure you actually meet face to face with the new hire in the first week.


Addressing basics like making sure they have a computer, workstation, and supplies on day one and setting up a meet and greet with all their key counterparts is critical for that first impression--an impression that has a resonating impact.

Simply put, armed with this data in the midst of The Great Talent Wars, we must reconsider our talent attraction and retention strategies. A casual approach means you'll be a casualty.