The best way to keep talents is to let them go!

For me another one of my yearly activities is hiring designer talents. This year is no exception. As always this also leads me to figure out how am I able to retain these talents that I hire.
In the case of designers or even the new executive of today, many do not treat jobs as long term careers but as a place to learn. Once they leaned enough they move on. Furthermore the idea of an iron-rice bowl and pension is gone and people are encouraged to treat jobs like a project, and as in every project there is a start and there is an end.
Even if a company can provide, I don’t expect the people I hire to stay more than 2 years. On average I expect most to stay for 1 year.
So in the same spirit of Jason Calacanis, CEO of Weblog Inc., I have some strategies that seem to work in my opinion in retaining talents. Some are even in opposite of retaining talents!
Plan for designers to leave. Some how they all do. Designers often get bored and no matter what you do, even offer more money, many just want to leave even just for a change of scenery. Managers to designers need to deal with it. This means managers will need to ensure there is enough people to do the work comfortably at all times, this basically means the team can still able to operate if you are one man short.
Interestingly enough this indirectly aids my next point, avoid designer burn out. I myself have experienced burn out and the feeling is not good at all. Nothing pushes a designer to quite faster than burn out. This is contrary to many design organizations epically design consultancies, as they operate often very lean.
Hire the best talents you can find. Good people love working with good people. Good begets good. Then if you ever have the option to choose between two equally great designers, do as Richard Branson does, pick the one that has had the more “beautiful” personalty!
Provide the best working environment as possible. Designers need space to grow and perform. Its a myth though that you need to provide total freedom. For efficient design work to happen there must be some discipline. So how to find a balance between freedom and control? Just focus on results. This puts everything in perspective when designers know they need to produce in the end.
Finally train and nurture a designer as much as possible. You may ask “why?” epically when they will leave. This is precisely the reason. By training a designer well, nothing advertises your team as well as a great designer formerly from the team. This become cyclical as people when people find out they want to be part of your design team. To me the greatest fear is when people say “god this new designer SUCKS! Where was he from?”

6 Comments
  • Singapore Entrepreneurs

    July 12, 2006 at 8:18 am Reply

    The best way to keep talents is to let them go!…
    What do you do when the best talents in your team are leaving your company? Our resident contributor, Brian Ling aka Design Translator, gives us his perspective in keeping talents for his industry and recommends that we should adopt the free market a…

  • dianne

    July 12, 2006 at 9:34 am Reply

    “people are encouraged to treat jobs like a project, and as in every project there is a start and there is an end. ”
    Never saw it that way….but now that you mentioned it, it does make a lot of sense!
    Well done!

  • Design Translator

    July 12, 2006 at 11:05 am Reply

    Thanks and please keep intouch!

  • olls

    July 12, 2006 at 12:25 pm Reply

    great article!
    Just a question…is letting talents go a good thing for the company? after all, are you expecting to train the new talents that enter?

  • Design Translator

    July 12, 2006 at 2:38 pm Reply

    Hi Olls,
    Thanks for the comments. Yes actually it does hurt the company. Thus a hiring buffer helps. Also in reality by adopting such strategies, designers actually do end up staying. Sometime so long that it becomes against their own benefit, as their portfolio of work becomes one sided and stagnant.
    Also when i hire, I need to ask my self if I can at least keep a designer for two years, how long do i need to train him/her up to become effecient? Most of the time i limit myself to 6 months. That gives me about 1.5 years of productivity. I dont hire designers that take me more than 6 months to train as its just not productive.

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