Why You Should Help All Your Employees Look For Outside Job Offers
A recent article piqued the reader’s curiosity with the seemingly paradoxical title “Why I Encourage My Best Employees to Consider Outside Job Offers.” In it, veteran marketing executive Ryan Bonnici provides compelling arguments for several benefits that companies can reap by taking an active role in supporting the career growth opportunities of their best employees. This includes showing an interest in the employees’ career ambitions, and in some cases even encouraging them to explore outside opportunities.
Bonnici provides a variety of arguments to support the notion that, far from hurting the company, this practice can help businesses to succeed. His arguments are supported by the observation that employees see their jobs as development opportunities, a sentiment that is particularly prevalent among Millennials, according to a recent Gallup study. He also discusses other tangible benefits of this proactive approach to employee development: avoiding the problem of good talent announcing that they are leaving without giving you a chance to do anything about it; ensuring that employees who do leave will speak positively about your company; and keeping good relationships with departing employees in case they ever want to come back.
Perhaps most important is the observation that showing your employees that you care about their career advancement can make them feel great about your company and lead to increased loyalty and openness. This observation is strengthened by the recent Global Talent Monitor report for 2Q18 by research and advisory firm Gartner, which found that a lack of growth opportunity — which employees now rank as the top attribute for job satisfaction — is the primary cause of a recent slump in employee engagement and employee willingness to perform discretionary work (i.e., performing above and beyond their expected duties).
Brian Kropp, group vice president of Gartner’s HR Practice, echoing Bonnici’s suggestions, indicated that “One of the most interesting things we found, which seems counterintuitive, is that when you talk to your employees about outside job opportunities, they become more loyal and are less likely to turn over.”
These observations are meaningful in the context of diversity and inclusion, because inclusion is a key ingredient of company performance, as I and other people have argued before. Career advancement and aspirations are one of the most important aspects of anyone’s life, and having to hide your life ambitions from the workplace will not make you feel included. If you feel that your manager or your company’s leaders do not care about your career advancement, you are clearly not “bringing your whole self to work,” regardless of your gender, age, ethnicity, religion or any other personal or professional trait.
Thinking about diversity and inclusion also helps us to notice a subtle but important missing ingredient in Bonnici’s article: focusing only on your best employees can have negative repercussions because of the potential for unconscious biases. One of the most common workplace biases is inadvertent favoritism for those who are most similar to ourselves, which means that you risk creating discrimination by providing this extra help only to a select group of employees. And even if you think you can tell objectively who are your best employees, there are many potential benefits in working to retain and engage your “B players.”
Most importantly in the context of diversity and inclusion, it is those employees who are already least likely to feel included that are also most likely to feel disengaged, mostly likely to be dissatisfied and most likely to be exploring outside opportunities. Their perceived (or factual) inability to grow and advance through the organization is accentuated by feeling “different” from the company and its leadership. And the perception of exclusion will be exacerbated if they see you supporting only a handful of employees based on your perception of performance.
Hence a potentially great idea can backfire if it creates the impression of favoritism, if it heightens the sense of isolation felt by employees who differ from the majority, and if it misses the opportunity to strengthen your entire organization.
These observations suggest that, while taking an active role in your employees’ career growth is a great idea, it would be much more valuable and impactful to do this systematically for all of your employees, or at a minimum to ensure that you are not letting your unconscious biases create a disproportionate advantage to the unique benefit of those who are already succeeding in the workplace.