May 28, 2012

You Can’t Lock Up Your People

One of the dumbest things I see managers do is try to hang on to great people by blocking office access to job websites such as TheLadders, VietnamWorks or KiemViec.

Do these managers really think that blocking access at the office will prevent an employee from finding another job?  I mean, come on.  It’s ridiculous.

The only thing that blocking job websites does successfully is communicate these horrible messages to your people:

  • You may be able to make more money in another job
  • I’m not confident that my job/company/management is good enough to keep you
  • I want to keep you in a position that may not be the best for you because my needs are more important than yours

When I managed VietnamWorks I used to encourage my people to look for a new job at least once per year.  Why?  Because I wanted them actively choosing to continue working for me even after they knew about other opportunities.  I wanted them working for me because they felt it was the best job for them, not because they didn’t know about anything else available.

This communicated a few great things:

  • I care about your career advancement
  • I’m confident that working here is a great option for you — I’m not afraid of competition
  • I am placing your needs ahead of my own

Which set of messages do you think results in more highly motivated and excited people?

The only condition I gave my people was that they had to share their career goals with me.  I would not be disappointed if they left the company to pursue a goal, but I would be disappointed if they had never told me about the goal.  I can’t give them what they want if I don’t know about it.

Remember, every action you take as a leader communicates messages.  Many of those messages are implicit in your action. Before you take an action, stop to think about what messages the action communicates to your people.

Don’t lock up your people.

[If you enjoyed this post, you also might enjoy my interview on Retaining Great People and my post on secrets of retaining great people.]