Employee Retention: When Achieving True Success Means Letting Go

Employee Retention: When Achieving True Success Means Letting Go

The war for talent. The age-old battle waged by HR teams across the country, each vying to secure and retain the best people to help them achieve organizational success. The eternal effort to create systems, process, and benefits to help keep them once you’ve recruited them.

At the epicenter of the war for talent resides the tech industry, where many talented engineers and other highly-skilled workers have no problem jumping to another employer for a minor bump in pay or benefits. The result? Companies are forever trying to outshine each other with baubles, beer kegs and nap pods to try to entice this demographic to join them.

What this approach fails to do is inspire loyalty. Despite all the money that these companies pour into perks, at the end of the day, it’s just job hopping.

A Better Way to Retain Talent

What if, rather than doing everything possible to keep people no matter what, you took an alternative approach? That’s exactly what Rami Essaid, co-founder and CEO of Distil Networks, has done.

“It’s almost a fool’s errand to try to hold onto people,” Essaid suggests. “Why work to retain people when the only solution becomes offering more outrageous benefits? It’s an unsustainable cycle where people end up leaving anyway. Why not rethink the way work is designed where we acknowledge people are going to move around over the course of their careers?”

And Essaid has some first-hand experience with this phenomenon. His Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity firm helps customers identify and block malicious website traffic while letting legitimate users do what they need to do. Distil is able to find the “bots” that attack websites and police them before they can do damage to your brand.

The success of the company over the last five years has resulted in the rapid expansion of his team, now 150 strong. Here are some of Rami’s secrets to success:

Be intentional about the culture you are creating from the start. Rami started Distil Networks with a small group of longtime friends and many of their initial hires included additional friends from their social circles. “This had the potential to create a dynamic of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ based on whether or not you were a personal friend or not, so we made a very intentional choice that we were going to build a company where everyone was treated with a kinship and in a transparent and honest way,” Essaid explained.

The founders of Distil took care to create a fundamental way of working together that was deeply rooted in the values that they shared as a result of this friendship. And by extending those values out to the team as they grew, they were able to keep the same feeling and way of operating over the years.

Really commit to providing developmental opportunities. “We are constantly investing in our employees.” Essaid described how Distil Networks takes great care in providing robust and comprehensive development to its employees. Be it executive coaching support, job rotations to different functional areas, or training and development, this approach aligns with Essaid’s belief that the company can play a role in helping people achieve their own personal definition of success.

Helping people to grow professionally and personally plays a significant role in ensuring that Distil is the right place for them at that time in their journey. And, if it turns out that a great opportunity presents itself outside of Distil, trying to hold people back is not in anyone’s best interest.

Structure career progression to include lateral mobility. Organizations that only afford career progression through promotion to levels of management dramatically limits opportunities. By finding ways to move people across the organization, Distil Networks has found another way to help provide people with the maximum opportunity for development.

Help people spread their wings and prosper, even if that means leaving your company. This is based on a few of the fundamental beliefs and assumptions that the leaders at Distil Networks hold to be true about the world of business. If people leave to pursue opportunities that present massive growth and development potential, keeping them would only hinder them. By letting them go forth and prosper, the company helps them succeed while also ensuring that the remaining workforce is in their place of most potential, doing their best work. If this is the case, Distil will become a much more attractive place to work—for the right people at the right time.

Employee Retention: When Achieving True Success Means Letting GoEssaid believes that helping people figure out their path and providing plenty of opportunities to achieve their vision of success is a much more productive, positive and effective cycle than trying to keep people who are not in their “zone” employed for as long as possible until they wind up leaving anyway.

Distil’s method doesn’t come without its challenges. Essaid is the first to admit that it can sometimes be difficult to get people to really think about, or articulate, where they want to go in life and in their careers. But this is not unique to Distil by any stretch.

It is incumbent upon leaders to both develop their own coaching skills and understand and acknowledge that some employees may have given little to no critical thought to their more long-term career goals. In these situations, engaging in frequent developmental coaching discussions can help guide employees in their progress so that they can be more intentional about setting and achieving their goals.

You can’t keep everyone around forever. As Richard Bach famously said, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.” It seems counterintuitive to give your employees every opportunity to leave. But by helping your team stay engaged in their role, aligned in their personal and professional goals, and allowing them to leave if it isn’t a good fit, you’ll ensure that those who choose to stay will be committed to doing their best work for you, for a long time to come.

 This article originally appeared on Forbes.

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Chris Cancialosi

Chris Cancialosi

Partner at gothamCulture
Chris Cancialosi is a recognized expert in the field of leadership and organizational development with particular focus on the leader’s role in shaping high-performing culture.
Chris effectively combines his operational field experience with his knowledge of organizational psychology to provide unique and practical solutions to today’s ever changing business landscape.
Chris Cancialosi