Holding on to talented people

A particularly effective or talented co-worker is generally one of those whom we would wish to hold on to -- and also one of those who quickly exhausts his job description, who wants to learn, to develop, who expects "more". But "more" of what exactly?
Dare to ask the questions you're afraid to know the answer to
We sometimes get lost in circumlocutions trying to avoid the one thing we really need to know: "do you want to leave?" An unsatisfied co-worker might indeed be tempted to seek a new post outside the enterprise, and while he is certainly not obligated to keep us informed, discussing his vision of the future, without any taboos, can allow us better to plan ahead and, perhaps, even offer some responses.
Gauge real expectations
You may think you know what your co-worker wants... and you might be in for a surprise. Here again, the need to dig deeper: "Which of your expectations are not satisfied, and in what way?" "In constructing the goals that you aspire to, what are your points of reference or comparison?" "What is the most important to you?" ... etc. It's a matter of getting to know your co-worker's vision, without judgement and without looking for solutions.       
Develop avenues for reflection
Even if your co-worker gives the impression of "wanting it all", chances are good that he would be pretty happy already just getting the first piece! As soon as you have clearly identified what is important to him: to learn, to raise his profile, to develop, to feel appreciated, to take on more of the pressure, to advance in terms of responsibility, status, remuneration... What's left is to imagine an initial change that takes one of these wishes into account.       
Each question has only one correct response, but be careful: among the possible responses there is one that is "almost correct" and might make the choice harder!
1 / 3   An external offer
Djamel informs you: "I don't see any possibilities for advancement within the company, so I'm considering accepting an external offer." How do you respond?
There must certainly be opportunities for you. I'm going to set up a meeting with the HR Director to present you with some proposals.
First, you need to know if Djamel is open to hearing offers. And is this possibility a realistic one?
I would obviously be quite sorry if you left. Is your decision already made or might we discuss it?
Yes, you are testing your chances of maintaining the dialogue, and if it's possible, Djamel will give you material to work with.
But you can't leave so quickly... We done everything possible to train you and entrust you with real responsibilities...
Surely you are right, but this is something that Djamel already knows; it does not respond to his primary concern.
Since it's you're choice... I think it's a pity but I can't hold you back.
You give up a bit quickly. Djamel is considering accepting another position; his choice is perhaps not yet final.
2 / 3   Open door (following the previous question)
In response to the question, "Is your decision to accept an outside position completely finalized?" Djamel says "Just about! It would be a great opportunity for advancement." How do you answer?
Maybe, but you know that sometimes you have to be careful... A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!
Djamel will surely want to prove to you that he is making the right choice.
And what are they offering that's so fantastic?
"What are they offering" would have been enough. You are giving the impression that you don't believe in his project.
What are they offering?
Yes, you simply start at the beginning: to know what the competing offer is!
I understand but we also can make you some very attractive offers if you're just a bit patient.
First you need to know what offer he has received in order to evaluate your chances. And it's no use asking him to be patient!
3 / 3   Signs of demotivation?
Ajita, a co-worker who is normally very creative, has been showing signs of boredom for several weeks: she doesn't offer many ideas, misses some of her deadlines, etc. What do you do?
You bring up the problem with her: "I feel that you're less motivated lately."
Why not, but Ajita may take it as a reproach and try to defend herself.
You propose a discussion: "By now you've mastered all the aspects of your position. Does it still interest you as much?"
Yes, you go straight to the point and allow Ajita to give you her perspective openly.
You wait before intervening: it's certainly temporary and everyone has a right to their less productive periods.
This is true but the signs have been visible for several weeks -- why wait?
You stick to the facts: "You aren't meeting some of your deadlines any more. What is happening?"
It would be better to open a broader discussion because you also observe other signs.

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