‘It’s not you its me’ – Accepting that your best people will leave you

Unless you’re lucky enough to work for a tech company you need to expect that your career opportunities are going to be limited within your current employer.  If you work in the main stream of the business there’s normally a well developed career development process that will take you from an entry level receptionist gig through to team lead, manager, Department Head, GM and beyond.  Sales people have the same thing, but techs, well, we have a joke at work about pushing me down the stairs as the quickest way to get ahead.

We still work on career development plans and try to provide opportunities that will allow each of the team to develop within the current structure and projected growth for the team.  At the same time I normally expect that theres going to come a time when every member of the team will out grow the opportunity we can provide, or will not want the opportunity that is presented.  There’s two options when this happens, either you try and convince someone that they should be happy with the opportunity that you have for them, or they leave.

The important thing to keep in mind is that everyone leaves sooner or later.  We can either fear it or embrace it.  I decided early on in my career to do the the later.  If you are upfront with your team that their next opportunity may not be with you, but when they are ready you will help them with that step, you create a situation where mutual trust and respect exists and you actually help yourself by being able to better identify your options.

In the military people are moved around regularly to help diversify their skill set.  By adopting this approach with people that leave you actually do the same and create a pool of talented contacts with a wide variety of skills and experience for the future.  Bringing in someone new also provides a great opportunity to diversify your talent pool and see how other people do things.

I recently had the opportunity to put this into practice when hiring a new Regional Applications Manager.  The successful candidate was in fact someone that I had first hired for a graduate IT role 8 years ago. We have both moved companies since we had worked together he had been promoted twice on the helpdesk, moved to a remote Systems role and finally to a regional systems role.  Not only do I get someone whose work ethic I know first hand to be fantastic, but I also have access to a large pool of industry experience that he has managed to obtain in the time since he left the role I knew him in.

It still doesn’t mean I don’t check behind me before heading down the stairs.

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