Building relationships by letting go


How to retain people through learning to let go and why company-centric cultures are not any longer working.

In between restructurings, talent upgrading and performance management we seems to have lost the art of building long-lasting relationships – although it is so simple and all it needs is a little bit of an attitude change.

When I was in the University I was involved in an amazing non-for-profit organization. I was engaged, committed, worked day and nights simply because I believed in my work and shared the values of the organization. In fact, 5 years later, I still feel I am a part of it – because it united more than people currently working there – it united people sharing the same values and vision. 5 years after my last project with them, I would still gladly support, help and get involved if needed. How many people would gladly do that with the past companies on their CV? That is when the concept of “loyalty” takes the whole new meaning.

There are few lessons I believe companies can learn here about building long-lasting relationships with their current/past employees:

  • Build organization seen as community of shared values, vision, principles rather than an “employer”. Employers come and go.  Values stay for a lifetime.
  • Value employees for what they are and what they want to achieve in life, not only in your company. Allowing them to be honest and driven by their true passion, might cost you an employee in a short term (it would anyway), but would earn a future customer and informal promoter.
  •  Take pride in being a part of someone’s career on the way of unleashing their greatness. Of course you want talented people to stay and become the next CEO. But let’s be honest there’s only few roles of that level in the company, and we still want ambitious people with us – so maybe we should be ok with letting them continue reaching their ambition somewhere else.
  • Be ok with people not staying with one company forever. It is not even healthy – we all need diverse experiences, different perspectives, change to continue growing. Since we love hiring externally, maybe we should be ok with people consciously deciding to leave.
  • When employees leave  – don’t slam the door in their faces, keep it open. Regardless of whether they decide to go or their manager decided to let them go, keep the good relationship, celebrate what they did while being here, wish them good luck in whatever they decide to do.

There are already quite a few organizations in the world that have Alumni networks. Just by having one companies state that they appreciate people that were there at some point of their careers, regardless how long they stayed, they were part of a shared experience. These companies recognize the changing world and celebrate themselves as those who were and keep attracting the brightest minds and support those in their aspirations.

Many companies see this change of attitude as a risky encouragement of people leaving and failing making a long-term talent investments. But in reality, treating and appreciating people in this way would result in higher engagement, increased retention, better reputation on the market and would attract diverse ambitious talented people you always wanted to hire.

It’s time to realize that organizations on their own are not the centre of the universe. We are: the people regardless of the position or role. Because we change working places, we grow, we have our reasons to engage, and if we decide, the organization would cease to exist and something new would be created.

We all have our own paths and our greatness to achieve. All the roles and positions are simply the steps and tools to deliver the greatness. Organizations should understand that and change. As so should we by consciously  taking charge of our careers.


2 responses »

  1. thanks for great post! I agree. Just want to elaborate. To my mind, organization -it’s managers, investors and employees. All of them should understand and contribute to this change in order to make it happen. I know great manager, who is the example of “values sharing” and long-term relationships culture. It’s really great to work with such people: they see clearly the vision of their work, work not only for money, don’t pressure you – but encourage, can balance life, have personal approach to colleague (some sincere attention), encourage your personal/professional growth, trust you.

  2. The company I worked at before loved to rehire because the market for talent was so tight the same pool was shared within the industry. ‘rehires’ were treated with respect and people felt they could always come back whenever they were ready to. It makes me want to work there again someday. I do think of them as more than just an employer in that respect.

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