Why You Need to Let Your Top Performer Go

Why You Need to Let Your Top Performer Go

As a manager, would you let your top performer go to another department without a fight? Probably not. Most managers aren’t going to let their best employee waltz off to work for another manager.

But this “talent hoarding” is exactly what low-performing, non-agile, slow-to-change companies do, writes Kevin Oakes in Harvard Business Review.

This practice of hoarding superstars is natural, of course. Oakes, the CEO of the Institute for Corporate Productivity, says that research shows half of companies (and 74% of low performers) say that managers are often the No. 1 impediment to encouraging mobility of top performers.

It make sense, of course. Losing top performers can certainly adversely impact a department’s performance — and can then hurt a manager’s ability to rise in the ranks. 

If companies want to become more agile and innovative — and better able to deal with unprecedented events like a pandemic — then they’ve got to change their thinking and how they move personnel. At the same time, managers have got to quit hoarding their top talent or risk these people leaving anyway because they are looking for more challenges and opportunities.

Oakes says that the best ways to ensure that top talent is used in a way that helps their own career and the company:

1. Don’t hide the talent. Call out the contributions these people bring to other departments, and reward managers for sharing them with others. Managers who help their people succeed and move around within a company become “talent magnets” and attract others who want to have a manager than helps with career development.

2. Celebrate lateral moves. Organizations need to make clear that lateral moves are just as valuable as upward trajectories to a career. When employees feel “stuck” and don’t have as many options, lateral moves can be a way to continue to grow their talents and value to the organization. Move all employees laterally from time-to-time to avoid “insider verses outsider feelings,” he says.

3. Normalize change. If there’s one thing that the pandemic has shown workers, it’s that change happens to every workplace. If a company culture normalizes change and treats it as a chance for opportunity, then employees will be less stressed and afraid of it. Mobility for workers within a company will be seen simply as part of a healthy business culture and something that makes a company stronger.


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