August 11, 2009 • Browser Media
I’ve been thinking lately about employee turnover, which is typically viewed as negative—a sign that something unpleasant about the workplace is driving people to seek better opportunities, and seek them quickly. And in many organizations, the answer is really that simple. They’re just not good places to work. But I’ve started to realize that there is an alternative explanation: some companies are simply excellent training grounds. They offer great experience in a variety of mediums and aren’t afraid to give newer and younger employees added responsibilities. The result? In a short span of time, employees who are ready to test out their newfound skills . . . often in a new environment.
Companies usually lament the loss of these ambitious employees. The business has made an investment, after all, and now some other organization is getting the return. But perhaps all is not lost. I recently read a client interview in which a senior executive described this very phenomenon as a positive aspect of his company’s culture. He noted that many of the employees who left the company after taking advantage of its extensive training an development opportunities went on to help develop important business connections between their new and old employers.
Part of what may foster these connections is culture. A strong organizational culture will stay with employees even as they physically move on. It remains an important part of their individual heritage—and, as an early episode in their personal histories, the foundation for additional values and goals. As these employees layer new corporate values into their own narratives, they are, perhaps, in the best position to identify similarities between their past and present organizations, and thus create mutually beneficial relationships based on very solid footing—compatible cultures.
There’s a lot to be said for longevity, especially in today’s environment. And much would be lost if companies failed to retain solid people over multiple decades—people with long memories of the company’s past and a vested interest in its culture. But the next time an employee leaves your company in good standing, don’t think about what you’re losing, think about what you might gain.