They all leave, don’t bother trying to keep them.

“It takes a lot to bring in new people. Training, teaching, and guiding them all require time and emotional investment. But just when they’re ready for bigger roles, they leave.”

I’ve heard this many times throughout my career, especially lately.

“It’s really bad now.”

I recently spent time with a friend, who happens to be one of the top designers in his country. “There’s no point investing in Gen-Zs. It takes a minimum of 6 months of guidance before they can produce anything of quality, and they start quitting after just 1 year. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to invest in new talents anymore. I’ll sacrifice the money and downsize my operations to work only with people I can trust.” True to his word, 2 months later, he decided to let go of his entire team and cancelled his annual internship program.

The people he trusts the most? Former employees from 10 years ago—people who worked with him long enough to learn what it takes to produce good design. People whom he had invested a lot of energy and time in.

Note the word “former” before employees?

A studio founder recently asked on LinkedIn, “How does one retain quality people?”

It’s LinkedIn. Naturally, the LinkedIn-ish top 5 (or top 10, if it is meant to be more SEO friendly) recommendations begin to flood in.

Build a workplace culture. Provide benefits. Install an open communication channel and practice transparent decision-making processes. Provide regular feedback. Focus on career development opportunities and personal growth. Pay attention to work-life balance and wellness. Create flexible work arrangements.

Sounds like a lot of work? Consider the role of a founder in a small-to-mid-size studio: Running a business entails taking on multiple responsibilities — from leading creative output and maintaining client relationships to managing accounts, dispatching stamped copies of NDAs, and even calling a plumber when the kitchen sink is clogged.

LinkedIn is saturated with HR consultants and specialists promoting their services.I once entertained the idea of engaging an HR consultant on a retainer basis. Interestingly, one of them was remarkably candid, remarking, “You’ll only find my services necessary when you have 11 people.” Intrigued, I began speaking to employees in medium to large-sized studios about their perceptions of the HR department. “They keep track of of our leave, schedule performance reviews, and organise various activities such as training sessions, workshops, retreats, outings and parties. But mostly, they are always busy with scheduling multiple interviews to recruit new staff, given the frequent turnover.”

A friend, who manages a studio with 90 employees, once mentioned that when the team grows beyond 40 people, HR becomes easier. “It’s when you have the scale to maintain an HR team that’s constantly hiring in anticipation of turnover,” she said. This studio is well-known for its big projects, good work environment, and investment in training and benefits. The main point here is that no matter what, people will leave their jobs. What works for them is to hire new people before someone quits, giving them time to settle in. It’s something only big studios with plenty of money can manage. Small studios can’t hire more staff ahead of time.

And it gets more complicated. The new generation of employees, aka the Gen-Zs have a different perspective. They aren’t necessarily keen on participating in the corporate game or becoming trapped in what’s viewed as a soul-sucking work-work culture. According to a study, a notable 70% of those who profess loyalty to their employer are actively or passively scouting for new opportunities. Many have side hustles driven by passion, or a strong sense of community connection. For them, a job serves as a pragmatic means to secure financial stability, enabling them to seek fulfillment in other areas of life. #quietquitting, #jobhopping, and #greatresignation aren’t stains that mar a CV; on the contrary, they’re worn as badges of honor. With platforms like Upwork and Fiverr booming, along with a burgeoning demand in the market for quick and affordable Canva-style work, who really cares about a CV anymore?

Fact: Quality people will leave, sooner or later.

Everyone who’s running a studio or agency used to work for someone else. I’ve thought about it, and the longest I’ve stayed in a job is 1.5 years. Maybe I’m deemed unemployable because I always feel compelled to pursue my own ventures. My former bosses treated me well, but none could keep me around for long. If no one has succeeded in keeping me beyond 1.5 years, why should I then expect people to stick with me for more than that?

I’m fine with the idea that good people will leave eventually. And those who stay for a long time are probably not growing much, don’t have many options for jobs, and are only staying because of the money. Again, #quietquitting .

I’ll do my best to be a good boss. Without sounding like a thought leader on LinkedIn, it simply means I will be open and honest, accessible, and always strive to provide constructive feedback. I will continually reinvent the ways the company operates to align with current work arrangements, lifestyle, and culture. I will empower people to make decisions, avoid being an OCD micro manager, but will step in and support when the team is struggling. I’ll simply be myself and hope that the people I hire will accept me just as I am.

As for investing in retaining talent – I won’t even think about it.

I have limited time and will invest just enough to get work done. Beyond that is driven solely by the individual’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge. I don’t set aside dedicated resources for training purposes. There’s no structured way to improve technical skills or knowledge. Learning happens while working, and guidance is given for each task—but if someone wants more help, they have to ask. Also, everyone has a budget for e-learning courses or conferences, but they have to request it themselves.

Instead, I focus on investing in relationships, especially with promising young talents. I purposefully blur the lines between being an employer and a friend. So what if they depart within a year? I may lose an employee, but I gain a dependable collaborator for the future, and, more importantly, a friend who’ll support me when needed, based on a personal, non-transactional relationship.

After all, why do we proclaim the future of the creative industry is based on collaborations instead of talent hoarding if we’re not actively building a collaborative framework for it?

Some companies use employment bond contracts to make employees stay for a certain time. This means the employee has to work for the company for that period. For people stuck in this: According to the Indian Contract Act 1872, the employment bond won’t count if it’s unfair or one-sided. In simpler words, it needs a fair part, like saying you’ll pay a fee if you leave early. This is to cover costs like training and hiring new staff. But the fee must be fair and match the loss. The word “fair” is key, but what’s fair depends on the situation.

For instance, imagine someone joins a company and learns on the job. A month later, they realize the job isn’t what they were promised. The problem? They signed a one-year bond with a fee of three months’ salary if they leave early. Can they argue the fee is too high? Yes, but it might mean a legal fight.

The lesson? Don’t sign any bond unless you’re sure it’s the right company and you’ll stay for the whole time.

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