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20 February 2019
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Let your people go and be pleased for them

19 January 2015  

“Poaching talent” said my fellow speaker – and, even with the pantomime season nearly at a close, you could sense the audience wanting to boo and hiss, blogs John Bowen

I was one of a trio of speakers talking about outsourcing, each of us considering the topic from a different angle. My colleague was putting the client perspective and was adding to the list of things that suppliers will do the point that they will often TUPE across the relevant members of your team and then poach, as he put it, the best of them for other jobs in your organisation. His point wasn’t on my notes and when I followed him onto the stage to put the supplier’s perspective to outsourcing I cut my talk a little short so that we could finish on time and therefore didn’t respond.

One of the key reasons to outsource, and one that all three of us raised, was that a key reason for doing it is because the outsourced supplier does it as their specialism and the client doesn’t. Thus the supplier will have far more opportunity for career progression in that specialism than the client can offer, so my response to the charge of “poaching” is “guilty as charged”, and cheerfully so.

If someone is good at their job and they are ambitious they will always be looking for bigger opportunities and will move jobs to get them. I would argue that, had the outsourcing not come along, they would have moved sooner or later because it is the natural order of life.

At no time in my career leading teams have I ever tried to hold someone back because to do so just frustrates them and they don’t give their best. I would rather have six months of someone busting a gut to do well than six years of someone bored and simmering. A rising star gives you results and motivates others around them. A constant stream of talent moving through your team marks you down as a place where people can succeed and attracts the best of new talent to replace those who have risen from your ranks.

From the client side I understand the loss, especially if you have to break in a rookie replacement, but succession planning is something that you should have been doing. Certainly it was high on my agenda when I was outsourcing services. Golden handcuffs do not work because the good people will move on anyway, and some of those who don’t lose their edge, begin to under-perform or worse, become dangerous.

As a supplier taking over a team from a client, I will always discuss the career progression of those people and make it clear that any with the potential to move up and on will be encouraged and start to build a pathway for them that included grooming a successor.

It is people that make organisations successful, so why would you want to stand it the way of that? Let your people go and be pleased for them.

John Bowen is an FM consultant