Q: I manage a small team and feel like I’m replacing talent every year. The problem isn’t that employees leave the company—they just move into different positions in the organization. The company wants all managers to broadcast internal open positions. I’m sick and tired of losing my staff to other managers and developing a new team every year, which hurts my group’s productivity. Am I wrong to not encourage my team to explore other roles in the company? Don’t I have to look out for myself sometimes?
A: The positive part of a company practice that alerts employees to internal openings is that the organization develops and maintains a much stronger workforce. When employees see internal opportunities for career development via lateral moves or advancements, they’re more likely to feel challenged in their work, develop new skills, and stay with the organization longer.
The negative part of this, as you’ve discovered, is that a manager’s ability to develop effective, cohesive teams is impacted every time one of their employees moves into a different role. As a manager, you need to work with HR and other managers who are frustrated by the practice to establish parameters around applying for internal openings. There might be a limit on how often an employee can interview for another opportunity, for example. At some companies, employees can’t apply for an internal move unless they’ve been in their current position for more than 12 or 18 months. Is there a limit on how many employees one department or manager can lose in a 12-month timeframe?
What has to be prevented is managers being penalized for developing strong employees who other managers want on their team. Perhaps certain benefits could be made available to the managers who effectively develop highly trained people who can bring value to a number of other important roles.
In most situations, the former and future managers can team up to plan a transition that works for everyone—perhaps it takes place over a number of months, allowing for a replacement to be found, rather than the traditional two weeks. The company might also offer support by helping you backfill positions or ensuring that your department is not negatively impacted by any resulting dip in productivity after reconfiguring your team. These managers should be positively recognized for giving their people enough training and development opportunities to find new positions at the company. Perhaps this activity becomes part of every manager’s review.
Yes, it would be wrong not to encourage your employees to go after internal promotions—a good manager is invested in the success of her people. And yes, you do need to look out for yourself, so get the practices changed to reward exceptional developmental managers. And while it can be frustrating to feel like you’re recreating your team over and over again, you’re also building a good reputation as an effective manager and strengthening your organization’s workforce. Consider the alternative: If your employees aren’t exploring new roles internally, they’re exploring new roles externally.