Money & Business

3 Reasons for Brain Drain—and 3 Possible Solutions

By / Jan 3, 2019 (Eugene Valter/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

If your longtime employees are leaving your organization and you’re struggling to find new talent with the right expertise in a tough job market, you’re likely suffering from brain drain. Consider these strategies to ease the pain.

Feeling drained? Considering the tight job market, odds are good that your association’s staff might be, as team members with specific expertise and institutional knowledge move on, move away, or reach retirement age.

So what’s a smart association to do? Read on for a series of common brain-drain scenarios and some strategies that might make the problem easier to handle.

1. An Aging Workforce

The problem. If your workforce leans older, you’re probably losing employees with deep institutional knowledge, or you will be soon. And the fastest-growing age group in the U.S. is also the oldest—those age 80 and older, according to AARP statistics cited by Marketplace.

The solution. What if full retirement isn’t the best play? According to HR Dive, more employers are embracing phased retirement, which reduces employees’ workweeks over time, or flexible retirement, which puts older employees on a shorter workweek. Issues to factor in when considering these options include cost (talented older employees typically command higher salaries and have higher health insurance costs) and potential age discrimination risk.

2. An Unhip Locale

The problem. If you’re in a smaller market or one that isn’t generally considered “hip,” it might be hard to convince your employees to stay for the long haul. As Bloomberg noted last year, this is particularly problematic in cities with larger urban areas nearby—such as Hanford, California, within shouting distance of both Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, and Danville, Virginia, near the tech hotbed of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

The solution. Some offices  in smaller cities (or those with declining populations) are working to bring big-city flavor to the workplace. As the Washington Post recently reported, the Montreal tech company GSoft has added an on-staff barista, an indoor skateboard ramp, and break rooms outfitted with video games and guitars. The goal? Keep college grads who might be attracted to other Canadian cities (the Post notes that Montreal loses many grads to Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary). Companies can also work with local governments on policies that make staying local a more attractive proposition. “The government is working really closely with the private sector, realizing what they’re losing when people move away,” said Florian Pradon, GSoft’s candidate experience manager. “It’s costing money. And people are leaving with knowledge.”

3. A Tide Shift

The problem. It’s not unheard of for a lot of people to leave an organization all at once. That’s when it’s time to take a look at your workplace culture. A difficult work environment, or even an uninspiring one, can play a big role.

The solution. You aren’t going to convince good people to stick around if they don’t feel invested in the culture, YOLO Insights CEO Rebecca Barnes-Hogg explained to MarketWatch. “Keep people engaged and motivated and excited about where the business is going,” she said. “They want to feel part of it. No one likes to feel like a cog in a wheel.” When employees do leave, ease the transition by encouraging employees to transfer their knowledge on the way out.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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