Turnover is expensive. Conservatively estimated to be at least one and half times the annual salary attached to the role vacated. When turnover results in reputational damage, the costs can escalate exponentially.

Not all turnover is bad, but when it’s undesirable, it pays to look closely at the reasons.

A recent Maritz Poll, Managing in an Era of Mistrust, reported “Fifty-nine percent of individuals indicated they had left an organization due to trust issues citing lack of communication and dishonesty as key contributing factors”.

Slade Partners hosted a luncheon on Wednesday 11 June 2014 in partnership with Swinburne Leadership Institute (SLI) attended by representatives from industry, education, government and not-for-profits, to lead a conversation on what leaders can do to build trust and better engage staff.

The luncheon was addressed by a panel of highly renowned speakers: Richard Hames, author and corporate philosopher; Janet Matton, previously COO for IBM, 2010 Victorian Business Woman of the Year and named in October 2012 as one of the 100 Women of Influence in Australia today; and Peter Mares, Adjunct Fellow at Swinburne University and moderator of the Cranlana Wisdom in Leadership Program.

Richard believes that much of the issue lies in the fact that organisational operating models and structures are rooted in an outmoded conception of work born of the industrial era. The modern era requires managers to be much more facilitative and collaborative. He challenged the group citing examples of “leaderless” organisations with impressive bottom line results where staff are self-organising and self-managing. Richard expressed a view that trust in organisations arises from demonstrated competence, respectful relational behaviour and belief in a shared vision.

Janet identified four trends that are shaping the work of leaders: The rise of big data, the internet and social media, multiple generations in the workplace, and the increase in deregulation. These changes, she believes, require leaders to be competent in displaying strategic foresight, ethical and cultural awareness, and systems thinking.

Peter referred to the great philosophical thinkers and how they have shaped notions of what leadership is, or rather what it should be at its best. He concluded that leaders, particularly political leaders, are in the business of ensuring “the best for the most”. His challenge to leaders is to think about how they determine what this is, what it looks like and in exercising leadership to be mindful about whose interests are really being served.

The panelist addresses and the ensuing discussion really highlighted that leadership is an “inside out” process requiring those in leadership roles to start with themselves, and to be diligent and rigorous with adopting self-awareness practices.

The discussion as a whole underlined the importance of the work undertaken by SLI and Slade Partners: SLI in shaping the future public discourse and Slade Partners in the critical role that search and recruitment plays in building organisational leadership and capability that will drive the right culture and values. As has been said by many, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”