This is Why You Need to Let Your Best Employees Go

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When managers have awesome employees, they want them to stay on their teams, taking care of the same responsibilities forever, but is this the best decision for either party?


A recent of 665 global organizations conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that half of managers surveyed admitted to "talent hoarding," or keeping their company's best employees in their current roles.

And that's not good. Talent hoarding can hold back employee careers and have negative effects on the business. Among companies surveyed, high-performance organizations were more than twice as likely to prioritize the movement of talent, while low-performance organizations were 2.5 times more likely to say that the movement of talent didn't matter.

So, how do you put an end to talent hoarding at your company? The answer? By creating a more mobile workforce. Here’s how:

1. Reward managers for development.

Developing talent sounds like an easy win-win — employees grow their skills and move forward in their careers while employers benefit by having more talented, happier workers. But, where’s the buy-in for managers?

Managers may understand the importance of developing talent, on a theoretical basis. But, in practice, it’s easier for them to keep the best employees on their teams. And if no one is encouraging those managers to help employees grow, why would they promote their workers to other teams?

After all, 63 percent of respondents inthe i4cp survey said that their organizations had no formal reward mechanisms for managers to develop and promote talent. And, If leaders aren’t held accountable for developing talent, who is?

Development should be part of the company culture, and managers should see it as an important part of their job. Build development into leadership evaluations and reward those who support and develop their teams.

2. Encourage employees to be more independent.

Creating a more mobile working culture shouldn't be the responsibility of managers, only. Employees need opportunities to put their skills to work and show leaders what they’re made of. They need to be comfortable making decisions on their own.

Allowing employees the chance to acquire new skills is important not only for their development, but for job satisfaction. The best companies recognize this: 55 percent of U.S. employees by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in November and December 2015 rated opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work as a "very important" contributor to their job satisfaction.

If employees lack opportunities to use their strengths and grow — which could leave their managers and even their employer behind in the process — they will leave anyway because they’re unhappy.

So, take preventive steps: Lessen any existing red tape and encourage employees to make decisions and take action without needing approval from multiple people. Employees will gain leadership skills and be happier, more productive workers.


3. Set goals with employees.

Without development, employees may feel that they’re putting in their time for the employer without getting closer to their own goals. In the SHRM survey, employees were more likely to say they felt that they contributed to the organization’s goals than that the organization helped them with theirs.

But leaders can’t help employees grow and develop if they don’t know what they’re working toward. Employees and managers should work together to set goals and personal career goals.

First things first, of course: Employees should understand their options and have a clear sense of their personal goals before speaking with those managers. Tools like like can help employees map out their experience, determine their career path and set goals to help them move in the right direction.

Then, leaders can help employees solidify their goals and achieve them. Assign projects and responsibilities that will help them build necessary experience. Find resources and training that will help employees reach both organizational and personal goals. Or, match employees with company mentors who hold positions they aspire to.

Connect employee career goals to organizational goals so that working toward them benefits both workers and employers. 

4. Make career advancement clear.

Employees may think they’re working toward their goals and getting closer to the next step of their career every day. But, in reality, their idea of mobility may be very different from their employers'. The by Lee Hecht Harrison found that 24 percent of 257 organizations surveyed said the top challenge they faced was a lack of organizational understanding of talent mobility and how it could be leveraged.

Employees don’t know how they can grow their skills and move up in the organization. They don’t know what their career path looks like. And that’s frustrating. Employees can’t move up the ranks if they don’t know what they need to do. And managers can’t help them succeed if they don’t know what development resources are available and how they should be used.


Explain potential career paths, talent mobility and ways in which promotions are determined — to employees and managers alike. For talent to develop, everyone needs to know what to expect from his or her career path, and how to get there.

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