Discontent is a dangerous foe if it lurks within your business, and you don’t have the expertise to slay it.

“Even if an army of ten thousand men were gathered, with
The courage and strategy of Caesar and Eugene,
They’d find their work cut out for them, destroying a Hydra’s growth
Which even Alcides (Hercules) would try to avoid.”

– Jan Jacob Mauricius, 1751 A.D.

The Hydra is one of the most iconic monsters in all of human mythology. A terrible creature that grew two heads for each one that the hero Hercules cut off, it is the embodiment of disorder, of misrule.

It is from this that professors Peter Abrams and Hiroyuki Matsuda drew the name for the hydra effect, a paradox observed in nature that sees changes in environments produce adverse effects. For instance, insecticides cause pests to flourish, or the death rate for an endangered species rises when measures are put in place to protect them. This happens because we gravitate to easy answers, to obvious solutions. We decapitate the problem to destroy it, only for it to grow in strength.

What applies to the natural world also applies to the business world. In two of their annual reports, Deloitte revealed a pair of important statistics. The first, from the Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, is that workers in Australia value leadership in an organisation (94% said it was important or very important) more than any other nation in the world, and rank fifth when valuing engagement in their work (88%).

Damning is the second statistic, revealed in The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016, that finds 66% of millennials expect to leave their job before 2020. The figure is predominantly inspired by the employees’ feelings of neglect – that they aren’t being given the support and education they need to feel confident of a future with the business.

That they want to leave is a big problem. That they are already thinking about it is even more concerning. What matters most though is how we as leaders overcome this discontent.

Even if this attitude is held by only a single employee, the answer isn’t simply to address the issue with them – or take more extensive action if it’s impacting on their work. No; the answer isn’t to strike at the manifestation of the problem. That will only cause it to spread. What you need to do is go for the heart of the issue, and burn it out.

It might sound like a challenge, but like Hercules, you will succeed if you confront it with all of your skill and ability.

As he was a hero, so are you. Lead by example. Connect with your employees, and foster in them a sense of passion and motivation. Let them know you care about their interests, their talents, their goals. Then prove it!

A fantastic notion put forward in Deloitte’s report is the implementation of ‘stay’ interviews. By the time an employee chooses to leave your business, it’s too late. Their gripe can no longer be conquered, and they’re unlikely to be truthful with you because it’s no longer in their best interest. That’s why stay interviews are so important. Sit down at the scheduled time, and ask them “what will it take to make you want to stay at this company for your entire promising career?”

In the future landscape of work, this will only become more and more important. Talent has never mattered more than it does today, but the value will put on it now is only a fraction of what it will be worth in the wake of the automation revolution.

Starting today, do everything in your power to engage with your employees. Prove to them that they matter. Prove to them that they belong.

Fail, and beware, for the monster may swallow you and your business whole.

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