Leave It Better: A Conversation with Kenny Tomlin — Serial Entrepreneur and Investor (and YouEarnedIt’s Co-founder)

Leave It Better: A Conversation with Kenny Tomlin — Serial Entrepreneur and Investor (and YouEarnedIt’s Co-founder)

It’s a new year and with that comes the gift of a blank slate as well as new challenges to tackle head on. With the optimism for what we can create as business leaders, this also means a renewed sense of commitment for building and investing in the most vital areas of our organizations: our talent, team, and culture. According to LinkedIn, there are more job transitions from January to March than any other time of the year, so there’s no time like the present to reaffirm or clearly establish your commitment to carrying the torch on talent and engagement.

As a CEO, I view this as the most important job I have. When people leave an organization, I find that there are such varied responses and reactions from business leaders. Some people take time to reflect on what could have been better to engage them to stay while others never skip a beat, operating as if turnover is inevitable. Turnover is sometimes unavoidable, but it’s always a time to reflect on what could have been improved for the employee and his or her overall employee experience.

Kenny Tomlin, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor

Considering the importance of this topic, I sat down with my co-founder, Kenny Tomlin, to talk about turnover and retention so he could share his direct thoughts on the matter. Kenny is a serial entrepreneur and investor who has a long history in technology innovation and business acceleration. While he has no shortage of experience growing strong teams and cultures over the years, Kenny has always been focused on how the employee experience can benefit stronger company performance. Here’s what he had to say:

“Employees are our greatest assets.” — every CEO of every company, everywhere

The single most important contributing factor to your company’s profitability is retaining your employees. Even marginal improvements in employee retention can add significant improvements to your bottom line.

My hunch is that as a business leader, you intuitively know this and don’t need to review the multitudes of studies that confirm it. But how much of your operating budget is dedicated to retaining and engaging employees — and how familiar are you with turnover data in your own organization?

After spending the past 15 years working with C-Level executives in a number of Fortune 500 companies, I’ve come to the personal conclusion that executive ego is the single biggest contributor to bad company behavior and morale.

And it plays out like this…

Company executives often deny that turnover is an issue and ignore the facts and costs of turnover in their organizations. Do any of these comments seem familiar? “A certain amount of turnover is healthy.” “Our turnover is better than our industry peers.” And “If an employee decides to leave then they weren’t committed to our business and we are better off without them.” These are the types of ivory-tower mentalities that dominate the executive suites of many companies and limit the budgets companies should be investing in retention and engagement.

As a founder and CEO, I’ve been guilty of this myself. Leading a company is an extremely personal endeavor. The numerous challenges and exhausting circumstances of leadership can easily blind us to the realities of the organization whose support we desperately need. Turnover feels like an attack from within our own ranks and an overstressed executive often reacts combatively versus proactively. This kind of response is pure ego and can create a culture of indifference.

HR executives and people managers are on the front lines, executing the vision of the organization, hiring talent, and motivating employees to perform. These people are acutely aware of the need to recognize performance, respond to feedback, and reinforce behaviors that make their teams more productive. They have far too many times weathered the loss of key employees that set agendas back significantly and brought down the overall morale of the team. So imagine their disappointment and discouragement when executives deny them the budget necessary to invest in engagement and retention strategies, yet simultaneously allow them to work with a recruiter whose fees for a single new hire can often exceed the annual costs of a platform that would help them retain top talent in the first place. It’s not only illogical, but irresponsible.

This is a shake you by the shoulders and wake you up moment! If you’re an executive leader at any company and your budgets to retain and engage employees isn’t at least as high as your budget to hire and onboard employees, then you need to immediately refocus your priorities. There are a lot of factors that can impact company profitability. Market competition, labor or material costs, real estate or tax increases, etc., but your ego cannot and should not be one of them. Open your mind to the reality of a culture of employment that must tangibly value and invest in your people. You’ll find it’s not only good behavior, but also good business.

Leave it Better with Autumn Manning is a Q&A conversation series with YouEarnedIt’s CEO to discuss hot topics around leadership, diversity, culture, and women in tech as part of our ongoing effort to build strong and inclusive business cultures.

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