Why the Best Leaders Want Their Superstar Employees to Leave

When it comes to superstar employees, many extraordinary leaders have built outstanding companies not by hoarding great people for themselves, but by mastering the flow of talent through their organizations, writes Sydney Finkelstein.   PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

When it comes to superstar employees, many extraordinary leaders have built outstanding companies not by hoarding great people for themselves, but by mastering the flow of talent through their organizations, writes Sydney Finkelstein. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

By Sydney Finkelstein

Should bosses try to hold on to their star performers?

For most of corporate America, the question might seem like nonsense. Star performers are seen as so valuable that managers should pull out all the stops to keep them—or else see their companies take a big hit in productivity.

Yet some of the best managers not only allow their top performers to leave, but actively encourage it.

I’ve spent the past 10 years studying the world’s greatest bosses across 18 industries, luminaries such as Ralph Lauren in fashion, Julian Robertson in hedge funds, Norman Brinker in casual restaurants, Larry Ellison in technology, Michael Miles in packaged food, Jay Chiat in advertising and Tommy Frist Jr. in hospitals, to name a few.

As I was surprised to discover, these extraordinary leaders achieved outstanding results in large part because they abandoned conventional thinking about keeping the best employees.

They weren’t afraid to lose their best people. On the contrary, most willingly unleashed their top performers onto the world, going out of their way to help them land outside opportunities. The leaders I studied built iconic businesses, transformed entire industries and in a number of instances became billionaires not by hoarding great people for themselves, but by mastering the flow of talent through their organizations.

Doing so will make an organization far more resilient, sustainable and successful over the long term. The talent-flow strategy is also better tailored to many of today’s abiding business realities, including volatile markets that demand more dynamic workforces; a generation of millennials less inclined to stick around for loyalty’s sake; and an entrepreneurial, gig economy that encourages frequent shifts in employment over the course of an individual’s career.

Not joined forever

The stories of these bosses reveal a crucial shared belief: You’re better off having the best people for a short time than average people forever. (Read More...)


Corporate Alumni: Gone but not forgotten

More firms are seeking to stay in touch with former staff

COMPANIES do not like to be abandoned any more than lovers do. Workers who quit are sometimes escorted out by security guards, their smartphones confiscated and their e-mail accounts deactivated. But in the professional services, former employees are increasingly treated as assets, not turncoats. Borrowing the concept of “alumni relations” from universities, such firms are trying to stay in touch with departed workers, hoping to turn them into brand ambassadors, recruiters and salespeople.

The notion was pioneered by McKinsey, a management consultant. Its up-or-out promotion system generates a steady stream of staff leaving on relatively friendly terms, many of whom go to work for potential clients rather than rival consulting firms. McKinsey has an online database of 27,000 former consultants. They are given access to a website which posts alluring job vacancies and regular presentations on business trends from the firm’s analysts.

McKinsey’s closest competitors have embraced this model. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), for example, refers to its leavers as “graduates”. It helps them to find new jobs, and even to negotiate a good contract with their new bosses. Once they have left, they continue getting free strategic advice from the firm’s partners. In return BCG asks alumni to help it recruit new graduates, and to brief them on the state of the industries they are now working in. And of course, it hopes they may send a bit of work in its direction. (Read More...)

2016 Future of Work Trends Report

We at Bluespace believe the Future of Work will significantly change the global corporate landscape, and offers companies and talent new and beneficial ways of interacting. In our view, there are three major guiding pillars that will shape how firms engage with talent and vice versa, with critical implications for firms:

  1. People increasingly want fluidity in managing work and life, and companies need the mechanisms to accommodate these goals and preferences. This is even more critical especially as talent segments such as returning moms, parents with special needs kids, veterans looking for transition, knowledgeable near-retirees, mobile millennials, etc. increasingly become a larger untapped and concentrated talent segment.
  2. As business complexity increases, companies need access to a more diverse mix of talent and expertise - often in an on-demand, short-duration, or other non-traditional arrangement. And many such experts prefer to work - and thrive - as independents, providing their specialized talents to a variety of companies rather than a single employer. Traditional employment models and processes need to adapt.
  3. As the business ecosystem continues to become more interconnected, companies will increasingly find value moving from the transactional, binary “in-or-out” relationship with employees to a longer-term ongoing relationship, in which value flows in both directions periodically over the span of people’s careers.


US Bureaus of Labor statistics show there are tremendous pockets of untapped talent in the industry and companies that need skills including state and city governments (refer to WSJ article "Cities, States Need Top Financial Talent, but Fall Short on Pay"). These and other Future of Work trends continue to emerge at varying speeds in different industries. To better understand how companies across industry segments expect these trends to impact their business, how they are planning for this future, and what new services and models are needed to take best advantage of these changes, we are conducting this seminal cross-industry assessment jointly with Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils (GFCC) and assistance from NYU Stern School of Business.

If you are interested in participating in this effort and/or receiving the finished report, please reach out to us.

Why High-Skilled Freelancers Are Leaving Corporate Life Behind

Photos: via Shutterstock

Photos: via Shutterstock

By Lisa Baird


On a sunny November day in San Francisco’s Mission District, inside the offices of Stamen Design (a studio known for cool-looking maps), I met what you might call a unicorn of the modern knowledge economy. Her name is Nicolette Hayes.

She and I sat down, and she walked me through her latest two client projects. The first was an interactive model of the Amazon rainforest designed for a popular geography magazine. The second was a visual design language for human emotion, where sadness was represented as a deep ultramarine blob with soft blurry edges. These disparate projects called upon a range of visual, interactive, spatial, and psychological concepts that many would struggle to understand, let alone weave together cogently.

Knowledge workers with polymathic competencies in multiple disciplines are still rare, but they're becoming more and more common. Take Hayes—a Berkeley geography grad with a design masters from Pratt. She is a data-visualization designer who regularly handles user interface, user experience, visual design, interaction design, and design research on behalf of clients. What once might’ve been a three- or four-person team is now simply Nicolette.


Buckminster Fuller might’ve called someone like Nicolette Hayes a "comprehensivist"—the opposite of a specialist. According to constructivist psychologist Spencer McWilliams, "Fuller was highly critical of disciplinary specialization, believing that it was originally instituted to support the interests of a power structure and keep intelligent individuals from knowing too much." (Read More...)

These 6 Million People Have No Interest in Full-Time Jobs

Getty Images

Getty Images

They want to work—just not 40 hours a week for one company.

The phrase “part-time worker” comes with some baggage. Assumptions are made about part-time workers—perhaps that their gigs are part-time because they’re students, or retirees whose schedules and needs don’t jibe with full-time employment. Probably the biggest assumption is that employees are working part-time simply because they cannot find full-time gigs with benefits, which could be reflective of something lacking on the behalf of the worker or shifting company policies that emphasize lower-paid part-timers.

What’s rarely assumed is that workers are part-time employees 100% due to their own choice. In fact, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by Bloomberg, there are now 6 million Americans who actively choose to work part-time. And their numbers are on the rise, up 12% since 2007.

While each individual has a different reason for seeking part-time employment as a first option rather than a fallback position, many of these workers have a few things in common. Namely, they tend to be young and well-educated. Instead of following traditional career paths, they are using part-time pay to help them pursue some version of the popular vision to follow your passion or “do what you love” during the hours they’re not on the clock. (Read More...)

Cities, States Need Top Financial Talent, but Fall Short on Pay

‘Most good CFOs could make a positive impact,’ Robert Mayer, chief fiscal officer of Fairfield, Conn., and a former private-sector executive, said of government service.  PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER BEAUCHAMP FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

‘Most good CFOs could make a positive impact,’ Robert Mayer, chief fiscal officer of Fairfield, Conn., and a former private-sector executive, said of government service. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER BEAUCHAMP FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL



Help wanted: Top-notch financial talent needed to face intense regulatory scrutiny; no bonuses or equity awards; modest civil servant’s paycheck.

That is not a job that would appeal to most of the nation’s best and brightest financial executives, who enjoy the big cash and stock incentives—not to mention the prestige—offered by the private sector. But states and towns increasingly need such executives to manage bond sales and pension deficits, as they come under closer government oversight.

“Getting people in government is not easy,” said Robert Mayer, chief fiscal officer for the town of Fairfield, Conn. “They’re all making more than the mayor.”

Municipal finance chiefs in the Midwest earn between $85,000 and $160,000, depending on the town’s size and affluence, while those working on either coasts can expect slightly more, said Heidi Voorhees, head of GovHR USA LLC, an Illinois recruiter for the public sector and nonprofit groups. By contrast, the median compensation package—salary, bonus and stock options—for public-company finance executives was valued at $3.57 million, based on proxies filed as of late June.

“It’s always our toughest recruitment,” said Ms. Vorhees.

Adding to the difficulty: Municipalities and for-profit businesses follow very different bookkeeping and budget rules, she said. (Read More...)

The Future Of Work: It's Already Here -- And Not As Scary As You Think



I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Singularity University Summit in San Francisco on The Future of Work. After months of research on the topic, reading dozens of books and articles on AI, robotics, and economics, I came to a simple conclusion: the future of work is already here. And we all have to deal with it.

The Future Of Work: Why Now?

The phrase “Future of Work,” has become a buzz word. (I found 48 million Google hits on the phrase.) There are are suddenly hundreds of conferences, books, and articles on the topic, covering everything from artificial intelligence to robotics to income inequality and contingent labor.

The reason for the interest is simple: we are in an economic cycle where jobs, as we know them, are rapidly changing. In fact, I’d venture to say we are reaching a time when jobs, as we know them, are going away. Here are just a few of the changes:

• Today, driven by tremendous transparency in the job market, we change jobs often. The average baby boomer will be looking for a job 11.7. times in his or her career, according to a BLS study, and Millennials change jobs every two years or less.

• Many of us work on a contingent basis. Nearly 40% of US workers are now contingent and platforms like Uber, TaskRabbit and others have made contingent work easier than ever. (Read More...)

Harnessing Happiness to Build Your Career — Advice from an Uber Product Leader



As told to the First Round Review by Frederique Dame, most recently aproduct leader at Uber, and before that at SmugMug, Photobucket andYahoo!. Here, she talks about how cultivating happiness put her on her top-flight career trajectory.

When I was a teenager, I saw the movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffithand Sigourney Weaver, and it had a profound effect on me. I wanted whatthey had. I wanted to be a savvy corporate sleuth and make big decisionsfor big companies — Harrison Ford and the skirt suits were just a bonus. Itmight sound silly, but it changed my life.

Growing up in France, my parents were dentists and they wanted me tobe one too. I, however, wanted to be a “businesswoman” — and, morespecifically, after falling in love with math and science — an engineer. Mydad, a crusader for his daughters to never compromise, supported me tofollow my heart — which ultimately led to working in the U.S., becoming aproduct manager, and joining Uber early, when it was in just 14 cities.

Most people are interested in hearing about this one segment of mycareer: How I helped shape a big part of one of the most influential companies in the world as it grew to 400+ cities in 68 countries. But themindset that got me there is a longer story, going back the 15 years I’ve been in Silicon Valley. When I look back, the single most important factor inmy success has been happiness. (Read More...)

The millennial generation shaking up the workplace rules

Getty Images

Getty Images

By Katie Hope

Virgin Group recently held what it called "a corporate day" asking its employees to behave in the way many traditional firms require - for just one day.

Staff had to wear formal business wear, arrive at 9am, use the titles Mr and Mrs, couldn't look at social media and weren't allowed to make personal calls.

"It was a horrible experience for everybody," says Sir Richard Branson, one of the UK's best-known and wealthiest entrepreneurs.

The purpose of the exercise, he says, was to give its people "a taste of what a lot of the world is still run like".

As founder of the firm, which has gone from a mail order record company to having businesses in telecoms, travel and financial services, Sir Richard himself has never followed a conventional path to business success.

He left school at 16 and didn't go to university. And at the Virgin parent company, staff are able to work flexibly and take as much holiday as they like, for example.

'More flexibility'

His belief is that making work a more pleasant place to be, by offering more flexibility; such as the ability to dress down, work from home or part-time, and take unpaid leave if they wish, will attract people and encourage them to stay and fulfil their potential.

"Hopefully that'll be the world of the future and that's something that we're working towards trying to get more flexibility in the workforce generally," he says. (Read More...)


This is Why People Leave Your Company

When Carly Guthrie was running HR for Per Se, one of the hottest restaurants in New York, the General Manager gave her a piece of advice: “You know, Carly,” he said. “If we’re doing our job as leaders, aperformance review should only be two columns: Column A is what you dogreat and Column B is what you do not-so-great. Now, here’s how wemove things from Column B to Column A.”

This approach stuck with Guthrie as she left the restaurant world to head up people operations for tech companies. It shocked her that these types ofcandid conversations were hardly ever happening, and people left as aresult. “There’s a mercenary mentality in tech right now — an idea thatthere’s always going to be something hotter, faster, more groundbreaking,” she says. “And yet, there’s very little internal discussion about how to keep people.”

Guthrie has been watching employees take and leave jobs for over 15years. Turns out, the reasons people love and hate their work are largely thesame across sectors. Step one to retention: Understanding why and howit fails. In this exclusive interview, Guthrie shares what she’s learned aboutwhy people quit, and what startups can do after an employee’s first day tomake sure they stay happy, engaged in their work, and committed to yourcompany (and to deleting every email they are most certainly receivingfrom recruiters).


You don’t respect their time.

In Guthrie’s experience, employees will follow up with recruiters and other job offers if they're even slightly angry, bored or dissatisfied. “Usually thehours are wearing on them or their spouse is on their case because they’re never home,” she says. “A really good CEO thinks about the bigger pictureand realizes people have lives outside of work. That’s the number oneway to prevent people from feeling like they might want to besomewhere else.”

But it’s easier than you think to be thoughtless. For example, Guthrie hasseen countless companies throw weekly happy hours that start at 4:30 p.m. every Friday. The result: People feel like they have to stay until 6 to bea good co-worker, then they get a slow jump on traffic, they get home laterand they’re tired, when they really want to just go do their own thing. “Just moving the happy hour to Thursday would show a tremendous amount ofawareness and make people feel that much better about the company andleadership,” she says. (Read More...)