U.S. Corporations are Crushing the Spirits of their Best and Brightest

Study after study shows

As the resumes roll in for open positions here at the Studio, we are facing a trend we have suspected for a while. There are legions of burned out corporate drones looking for liberation. Study after study shows that Gen X and Gen Y will have more than six jobs in their lifetime, viewing each as a brief stint before their next move.

One report in the Boston Globe stated that between 30 and 40 percent of graduates from a selection of top schools, including Harvard and Carnegie-Mellon, are bypassing corporate America and starting their own businesses. Similar reports show that at least half of all Millennials aspire to be self-employed, and view a solo career as more stable than a corporate one.

Young, bright and motivated people are tired of working hard and having their work go nowhere except down the crevices of the corporate bureaucracy. A friend of ours, a brilliant social media and PR strategist just left a global company with Memphis headquarters, exasperated after years of playing politics and waiting for his boss to get promoted or leave so that he could move up a rung. His boss sits in the traffic jam as well, waiting for the Boomers to retire so that he can move up and feel a small sense of accomplishment. Our friend left and has taken a job overseas. Another friend of ours discovered a way to save a cola giant tens of millions of dollars by making a simple policy and financial change. Her suggestion fell on deaf ears; no one wanted to rock the boat. Then a high-level executive heard about the idea and suddenly her group was up for an internal award. Of course they decided to have a more senior colleague represent the team and the idea because he was “funnier.”

Bright people are streaming out of corporate America because they want to make an impact. They want to grow businesses. They want have a purpose and make a difference.  As it stands today, they are relegated to their cubes. Business is not disrupted when they leave and no one notices they are gone.

Corporate America, you are losing your best people

You are left with the worker bees (a very important part of the team to be sure) and the politicians. These people are mired in old ways of thinking and doing things “the way they have always been done.”

The problem is you, not them. They want what all bright people require: intellectual stimulation, autonomy, and entrepreneurial incentives.

Fortune 500: you want to innovate?

Empower your younger workforce to think creatively. Give them and their innovative ideas access to top leadership. Break the ladder and shatter the concept of pay grades – promote them over their status quo managers. Shake things up. The days of the rank and file and the gold watch are gone. Your Boomer management will be gone soon too.

Then what?

image credit: Creative Commons

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Michael Graber is the cofounder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis.

Michael Graber




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