You’ve probably encountered this scenario before: Your company hires a great new employee who quickly meets and exceeds all expectations. This employee is the definition of a rock star: They work well with everyone in the department, get things done, and think creatively.
All seems to be going swimmingly — but then, having reached their full potential within that department, the employee starts to look elsewhere for new opportunities. Eventually, they secure a position with another company, and your rock star leaves. Upon looking into the employee’s departure, you discover why they felt the need to search for opportunities outside your organization: The employee’s manager had selfishly stifled the employee’s growth in order to keep that A player on their team.
When an individual manager purposely keeps top talent on their team for longer than is good for the company or the employee, it’s called “talent hoarding.” It’s a real problem, and it occurs more than it should. Not only does talent hoarding damage the individual employee’s career, but it also reflects poorly on the company’s culture. It contributes to increased turnover, and it may even harm the organization’s employer brand.
Talent Hoarding Hurts Employees
Talent hoarding holds back an employee, closing the doors to opportunities and limiting their career growth. You know it’s happening when it’s easier for top talent to find a job outside of your company than within it.
Part of what makes talent hoarding so pernicious is that managers might not even realize they are doing it. The manager may believe they are trying to retain a high-performing employee when really they are driving that employee away.
You might think people leave companies because they’re unhappy or don’t like where they’re working, but according to information compiled by RolePoint, 93 percent of people actually leave companies to change roles. Another way of putting it: Top employees leave your organization because they don’t see the opportunities they want within your company.
It may sometimes be the case that those opportunities simply do not exist within your organization. Often, however, you can attribute these departures to managers hoarding their talent and hiding the opportunities that are available outside their departments.
The Consequences of a Hoarding Culture
On the surface, talent hoarding might not seem like a big deal, but when managers fall into the mindset of “don’t touch my talent,” they’re actually creating a culture in which your best employees feel like they have no other option but to leave.
Replacing talent — especially good talent — is expensive. It’s hard to nail down a specific price tag, but consider this: A Sasha Corporation survey determined that replacing an $8-per-hour employee costs, on average, almost $9,500. The cost can be much greater for employees earning higher salaries.
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How to Build an Open Culture
Rather than hoarding talent, leaders should be encouraging employees to grow. Help your employees develop the skills today that will prepare them for success in their next roles. There are several steps you can take to do that:
1. Engage Your Stakeholders
Talk to employees, managers, and supervisors across the company about the dangers of talent hoarding. When you involve all the relevant stakeholders in discussions around talent hoarding, you create a corporate initiative for change. Furthermore, when you open up a conversation about this malicious practice, you send a clear message to managers that your company does not support this behavior.
2. Incentivize Referrals for Open Positions
Consider adopting incentives to encourage referrals across departments. If a manager’s performance is reliant on key performance indicators tied only to the results delivered by their team, that manager is incentivized to hoard talent. However, if managers are rewarded for referrals and talent development, they will have incentive to act as team players. Advocate for and encourage internal mobility, and your organization will retain more talent.
3. Break Down Silos
Make it known that the company is behind this employee development initiative, and put in place policies that support cross-department participation. This gives employees an official avenue through which to explore new career opportunities.
Additionally, you may want to implement a system for tracking workforce development activities. This will allow you to ensure that development is taking place, and it can also help you identify employees who are ready for a change.
4. Monitor Employees’ Career Moves
Pay close attention to the changes employees are making, how they are making them, and when they are making them. By analyzing these factors, you can get a good sense of the indicators that tell you when employees will want to make a career move. With this information in hand, you can find the opportunity a person wants within the organization before they go looking for it elsewhere.
The best way to avoid the cost of losing top talent is to be honest about the nature of careers. Employees — especially the best ones — do not want to stay stagnant. Rather than seeing mobility as a threat, use it as an opportunity. If your company enables employees to grow, you will have an edge over your competitors in the talent market.
Linda Ginac is the chairman, president, and CEO of TalentGuard.