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DEEP THOUGHTS: Are Great Places to Work Holding Back Talent Development?

In the wake of the New York Times article on Amazon, I thought it would be worth sharing the past post by Redfin CEO Glen Kelman, who wonders aloud if all the fun, benefit focused features of the GPTW actually hinders employee development:

"The problem is that the young engineers earning that much become well-fed farm animals at the very moment in their lives when they should be running like wild horses. Many now remind me of middle-aged men, collecting expensive scotch or taking up John-Kerry hobbies like kite-surfing and race-car-driving at the age of 24.

What changes these folks isn’t just the money. It’s the cosseting, which can permeate the most minute interactions between engineers and their mentors. If you as a manager have spent all day wooing new hires, you aren’t likely to turn around and tell a young engineer on your team how much more she is capable of, even if this is just what she needs to hear.

This is why Silicon Valley’s War for Talent hasn’t always been good for the talent. After all, the only way to get much better at your craft is to be challenged in ways that make you uncomfortable. Yet not many people in high technology are uncomfortable these days."

So, I know what you're saying - the concept of the Great Place to Work transcends all the fun stuff, right?  Well, that's true, so I loved this quote as a reminder of what's easy and what's hard related to building a GPTW.  Writing a check for benefits, great workspace and more is actually the easy part.

The hard part?  Creating a culture of feedback that gives brutal, yet constructive guidance to talent as it boots up in your organization.

Easy to do, hard to say, right?  Build the features of the GPTW that are visible, but don't forgot about the hard stuff. 


Geoff Kade

In my opinion, this article is accurate in identifying actions that many organizations take. Whether intentional or unintentional in their methods, I believe once a company or organization goes through the process of recruiting, hiring, and incorporating an individual in the onboarding process (especially if it is a highly skilled or sought after employee) the company aims to retain their talents within and find places in which they can contribute to the well being and financial prosperity of that entity. Obviously, the first thought a hiring manager may have after their diligent efforts might be, “we need to do everything possible to keep this employee.” As this blog discusses, the real question presents itself quietly, “How do we keep them within our organization and not let them get persuaded for another company?” Personally, a culture of accountability, self-initiative, promotions, and advanced education/certifications to grow along with a comparable financial package would encourage almost all employees to remain dedicated. Does this really mean, an employee is reaching their true potential? Possibly yes or no (depending on the situation). Additionally, as this article goes on to discuss, the “crucial conversations” part of any situation, is easier said than done. Employees react differently to verbal and non-verbal language. Some are more receptive to constructive criticism and even on the flip side some are skeptical of too much flattery. Finding an equilibrium between talent retention, growth, development, and fair conversations of potential is a necessity to accurately juggle in order to truly provide the best possible scenario for both corporations and employee.


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