The Curious Cause of Disengagement

A successful company widely known for its reputation as a great place to work saw an alarming increase in voluntary turnover—including some of its best talent. We were asked whether LVI 360 data, which was available for a large portion of their directors and above, could shed light on the brain drain.

Our Standard LVI Group Report revealed that, on balance, their leaders were rated quite favorably compared to global norms. Further, the leadership culture was predominantly enabling and strategic—the inspiring “caring visionary” profile. But one concerning theme stood out in: the majority of leaders were rated too little on holding people accountable.

We went deeper by analyzing the relationship between 360 ratings of holding people accountable and employee ratings of their engagement (from the LVI Team Vitality scale). The results showed a strong statistical relationship between a lack of accountability and low engagement. In fact, too little accountability had nearly as strong a depressing effect on engagement as did too much accountability.

The results were surprising to the organization, which prided itself on its people-centric culture. Follow-up interviews and focus groups with employees indicated that while they appreciated much about the culture, they found a common tendency for leaders to turn a blind eye to underperforming employees demotivating. This sentiment was strongest among star performers, who felt resentful for having to pick up the slack.

The organization implemented a program based on the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott to train leaders how to care personally for employees while also challenging them directly with constructive feedback about performance issues. Turnover decreased the following year, and the company added “Care enough to hold each other accountable for being our best” to its corporate values.