The recent Inc. article “Why Are Workers Really Quitting?” reminded me of a book I read many, many years ago titled Unstable at the Top by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries and Danny Miller.

The question you may have is, how does a book from 1988 have any relevance in the 2021 digital world regarding employee hiring and success? It is a good question with an equally good and compelling answer – employee success always has and will always start and finish with good management.

The present-day Inc article reported that “a staggering 63 per cent of those employees with a bad manager are thinking of leaving in the next year.” Meanwhile, in citing a 2018 Udemy study, the same article found that “nearly half of employees surveyed had quit because of a bad manager” and that “almost two-thirds believed their manager lacked proper managerial training.”

The tie-in to the 1988 Unstable book would seem to suggest that while technology has achieved amazing breakthroughs in the candidate identification and acquisition process, employee retention continues to be undermined by some of the same leadership issues from the past.

Perhaps this is why most new hires, from frontline workers to senior managers, fail within the first 18-months of joining the company.

These results raise the question of at what point does a successful hiring process (and outcome) really begin?

A “Higher” Calling

In a June 2021 Procurement Foundry article, I talked about the poor retention rates for new hires and the impact of technology such as AI recruiting systems. In that article, I said that while AI recruiting technology was “initially promising,” they have limitations because it is easy to take out the human factor, including assessing the current organisational environment or culture. More specifically, you have to first and foremost consider the leadership picture within the hiring company and start building out the rest of the team from there.

Doing so is important because a great leader can overcome a bad hire, while a great hire will never be able to overcome bad leadership.

The above assessment may sound particularly blunt, but the numbers bear this out, going back to my 1988 Unstable At The Top book.

The Right Leadership

The Inc article offers some good preliminary advice on the most desirable characteristics of a good leader. These characteristics include becoming better communicators, creating a “psychologically safe” environment for employees to feel free and safe to speak their minds, and helping employees identify career goals and the paths to get them where they want to go.

Once again, these are all good and valid suggestions. However, there has to be a proven system or process that accurately assesses the current culture within an organisation, including its leadership profiles.

Once you establish this leadership baseline, you can then not only identify the talent gaps that your organisation needs to address but – and this is key, align prospective hires with management styles, approaches, and beliefs. In other words, a fit not based on a resume and a job function alone, but a bonafide match that creates the right chemistry for sustainable success.