After reading a great article about increasing engagement by giving your staff the opportunity to grow and develop using their job with you to help them reach their NEXT job, I was reminded of a practice we had at a prior company which was similar, and also very successful in surprising, long-term ways.
We were not a tech company, but rather a scientific consultancy that started over 20 years ago. However, we broke a lot of rules and common practices when setting up and running our organisation. When we hired junior staff to come work with us, our clear expectation was that they would spend 2 or 3 years with us, and then most likely head back to graduate school or on to something else entirely. While working with us, we would expose them to many different disciplines and work activities, giving them the opportunity to learn broad skills as well as the unique specialities that came with each subject area. Usually people found their passion or niche within that 2-3 year time and if deciding graduate school was their next step, we would help them with reference letters, contacts at various programs, and send them off with a rousing farewell.
Of course we always hoped the best and the brightest would return to work with us after their graduate programs; we made it clear we always hoped they would check back with us first, and many did.
This strategy worked really well for us in so many ways. In addition to our talented junior staff, we welcomed back great higher-level staff we already knew and loved, and who were able to hit the ground running when they came returned. Because our work required and benefitted from working closely with academic researchers, those former staff who stayed in academia and didn’t return to work for us ended up many times collaborating with us on projects, as well as funding opportunities, research papers, and conference presentations. And also unexpectedly, these new professors also sent us their best students to begin their work lives before graduate school, and the cycle continued.
We have an active unofficial alumni group (of which I am now a member) which is impressive in scope and loyalty. I recently met with a small group of former and current coworkers 20 years on from when when we started, to catch up with our work and family lives. Needless to say, it was delightful, and these ties continue to link our lives and work opportunities, with new possible collaborations forming yet again at this meeting.
By expecting and planning for the long-term goals of our staff, not only did we create a network of talented scientists who continue to collaborate together, but also continue to help each other professionally and personally long after their working lives crossed.
When you help your staff grow and succeed beyond the bounds of your organisation, not only will they likely stay longer with you and contribute more when they are there, but they may also contribute in the future to your organisation and your life in delightfully unexpected ways.
Here is the great article I mentioned above: