If someone were a truly great boss, you'd assume that their team would stick around. After all, why jump ship if your supervisor is exceptional at developing individuals and getting important work done with little drama?

Given this commonsense understanding, you'd expect that being a superbosses and having exceptional employee retention would go hand in hand. But you'd be entirely wrong, according to Sydney Finkelstein, a business professor at Dartmouth's Tuck school and author of the new book Superbosses.

Retaining employees is a waste of time?

In a quick interview with Quartz recently, Finkelstein claimed that contrary to conventional wisdom, the world's best bosses don't really give a fig about retention. "The best leaders seek out the most talented performers, invest themselves heavily in their development, and don't fight to retain them, knowing their success in grooming stars will attract others," writes Oliver Staley, summarizing Finkelstein's wisdom.

Offering examples from Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels, who backs his talent moving into the movies, to Tom Frist, co-founder of hospital chain HCA, who invests in the start-ups of former employees, Finkelstein insists "the best bosses don't sweat it when their best performers want to move on. They expect it, may encourage it, and in some cases, profit by it," according to Staley.

Job hoppers welcome

This might be deeply counterintuitive for a lot of managers, but Finkelstein isn't the only one claiming that bosses benefit when they welcome job hoppers and then happily wave goodbye as they exit for to their next gig or project. Entrepreneur and author Ben Casnocha has also urged employers to stop trying to hold onto talent and instead to enable employees to grow and move on.

"Instead of denying the job-hopping, opportunity-seeking ways of young talent today, it seems wiser for companies to face the reality and embrace it. Help employees develop transferrable skills. Help them build the start-up of themselves. And be very explicit with new hires about the expectations," he has written.

What are those expectations? Here's the ideal new compact between top talent and forward-thinking companies, according to Casnocha: "We expect you to give us a really strong tour of duty for 2-3 years. When you leave, we expect you to be part of our corporate alumni group. We want you to be part of our corporate alumni network. We want you to help recruit new employees. We want you to be lifelong ambassadors and evangelists for our products and services. But we know you're super talented and will come upon many other career opportunities while you work here. We know your tenure at the company may not last more than a few years."

It's an intriguing approach and one that benefits from its realistic assessment of talent's likely plans and aspirations. After all, as the old saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Maybe that goes for job hoppers too.

Are you buying this argument that developing people and letting them go beats trying to convince them to stick around?

Published on: Feb 19, 2016
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