I recall talking to a bright young manager who loved her work and loved her company… and yet was planning to leave. Why? Because she needed a new challenge. She knew that if she stayed she’d eventually get stale; it was time to run.
Hang on to your talent
This is exactly the kind of person you don’t want to lose –but what can you do? Money isn’t the issue, so there is no traditional reward solution; the only solution is to think outside the box. You need to find a way to give this person challenges beyond what their existing job provides.
In writing my book, Lead the Work: Navigating a World Beyond Employment, co-authored with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan, I encountered several cases that illustrate how out-of-the-box thinking can deliver the experiences employees crave.
Out of the box thinking: Case studies
One mid-western company had a star programmer whom they wanted to retain but was receiving tempting offers from fashionable tech companies in San Francisco. How could they keep him from jumping ship? Well, they had a couple of strong cards: he liked the company and liked the mid-west. All they needed was to give him the opportunity to work on really interesting technical projects – projects they didn’t have in-house.
The solution was to let him work part-time on projects from Topcoder (a talent platform where programmers compete to provide the best solution to coding problems). With Topcoder, he could pick the projects that most interested him, and this built the right amount of challenge and personal development into his life. The employee was retained by being allowed to work, some of the time, outside the walls of the company.
IBM told me the story of one of their European financial professionals who was given a chance to put her existing job on hold and take an assignment for several months with one of IBM’s Asian units. It was exciting work and provided her the kind of overseas experience she wanted. It was a smart way to retain, motivate and develop a valued professional. Is your company organized to arrange this sort of thing?
The ability to create these opportunities doesn’t arise by chance. IBM has a sophisticated internal department to match up employees to out-of-the-box experiences. However, any company that believes in this approach can loan talent for projects at a not-for-profit (TapestryBuilder can help organize this kind of loan) or check out a talent lending website like TalentLender to seek out short-term or part-time opportunities for employees in other firms.
A fresh take on rewards
When traditional rewards fail to retain talent we need to be open to fresh approaches. Since one of the most valuable rewards of all is interesting experiences we need to seek ways to add those to our reward tool kit. We won’t necessarily find those inside our company, so we need the courage and imagination to find part-time or short-term arrangements outside our walls.