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Employee Turnover: How ‘Hoarding’ Talent Costs You Your Top Performers

Topics: Growth, Retention

I just read this fascinating TLNT article on talent hoarding and wow is my INFJ (read: idealism) showing. What I mean is: I can be blindsided by scandals sometimes, because I literally can’t conceive of some of the crappy things humans do until I hear about them — and every time, I’m dramatically taken aback by whatever brand of ruthlessness I’m just learning people engage in.

That was the case for this article. Did you know that some managers intentionally block their top performers from internal transfers and promotions? I know there are some bad bosses out there, but it never occurred to me that this could be a widespread practice. Unfortunately, it sounds like it’s pretty common. And while unacceptable, it’s not difficult to understand why it happens once you really look into it. Allow me to unpack it a bit.

There Are Plenty of Incentives to Hold On to High Achievers …

Strong performers bring their colleagues up with them — at least when it comes to overall team performance. High achievers help teams “hit their numbers” and managers get their bonuses. The longer they’re on the team, the longer team performance metrics stay predictably high, and the longer their managers can avoid the pain of replacing them. Bosses also sometimes worry that if they do let an employee go, they’ll lose that “head” forever, and won’t get the budget to hire a new person.

… But There Are No Real Incentives to Develop Them Further

Expecting managers to put their best people up for promotions to other teams is expecting them to not only just be good people and do the right thing, but also to put the organization’s interests ahead of their own. Plenty of managers operate this way, certainly, but apparently plenty of them prioritize their own self interest, too. And typically, managers don’t really get accolades — much less raises or bonuses — for advancing their direct reports into bigger roles.

Lack of Mobility Could Cause Your Stars to Flee

Beyond the fact that it’s unethical, this “hoarding” practice could be a significant contributor to turnover, particularly among your top performers. These are people driven to achieve and advance, and if another organization will afford them the opportunity to move up when yours won’t, they’ll likely jump.

What can you do? It comes down to two things: Know how to recognize this behavior in your managers, and be intentional with incentives so as not to stifle employee mobility. The original article has lots of good info to work from (including the many — many! — ways bosses keep their employees from progressing, which just makes my head spin).

Good luck! Here’s to retention!

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Cassie Sanchez
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