4 ways to avoid brain drain

All HR managers question how to avoid brain drain in their companies. In fact, a large part of their job is to find the best possible answer to this question.

In the human resources field, there is a certain consensus on one idea: sooner or later, all employees leave a company for various reasons. In a nutshell, it is becoming increasingly rare for us to retire at the same place where we started working

Therefore, that world in which people entered through a door and, as long as they were not thrown out, left through the same door forty years later, is increasingly distant from our working reality

The image of any company as a living organism that is constantly shedding its skin to adapt to the circumstances of the moment seems more appropriate to what we experience in offices today. 

It is quite different when the turnover rate of a company’s staff is so high that it becomes impossible to move in any direction. In that case, we could be facing another phenomenon, this time undesirable and the battle horse of all human resources departments: brain drain

This concept arose in association with the migratory phenomena that cause the most talented workers from one country to emigrate to other countries and develop their professional careers there. This generates enormous damage to their countries of origin. 

Gradually, the idea has also been absorbed by the business world to describe talent drain: the concept whereby a company is unable to retain its most qualified workers, therefore losing the potential for growth and knowledge. 

In these cases, especially when it happens frequently, the company has to invest too many resources in finding, onboarding, and training new employees instead of investing in the ones they already have.

We are talking about psychological wear and tear for the entire team: it is not easy to be saying goodbye constantly to colleagues and learning to coexist with new ones. We are also talking about a lot of time wasted and a lot of money spent inefficiently due to a phenomenon that has been studied: the loss of human capital

This is what no company can assume and, therefore, what any company must avoid with the means at its reach. Now ask yourself: what tools do we have in our company to defend ourselves against this threat to our productivity?

Four tools to avoid brain drain

There are many ways to prevent the early flight of talent within a company. Let’s take a closer look at at least four of them.

1. Active listening

Add observation too. These communicative qualities will allow you to know firsthand what your team members like and dislike, including those who are most qualified. 

This is valuable information because people do not always express their opinions or moods openly, or managers tend to assume them without checking with them. 

This lack of communication makes it impossible to get to know the team members closely and, therefore, prevent in advance those factors that will lead to a potential premature talent drain, i.e., which could prevent brain drain. 

2. Adequate emotional salary

Regardless of whether the financial rewards are appropriate for the seniority, responsibility, and category of the employees, human resources managers know better than anyone that not everyone stays or leaves because of the money. 

Sometimes it is about the environment, the project, the values reflected in the real company culture that we have in this company, the way the employee feels treated, the perspective of learning beyond the perspective of economic growth…

Some figures are difficult to compete with, but many people would rather work for less than live worse but earn more each month. This is where talent retention as a corporate attitude takes on enormous importance.

3. A favorable working environment

In addition to including it as part of emotional pay, this intangible is so important that it deserves a separate category. A favorable working environment can be built in many ways because many factors influence the “atmosphere” in the company’s workplace. 

To highlight just a few of them, we can talk about three things that make working in a company enjoyable and therefore help retain talent. The first is team cohesion: good interpersonal relationships, companionship, cooperation, and networks of mutual admiration and inspiration. 

The second is the flexible management of time and space. When schedules are at the service of the task, they are more likely to be suitable for psychological well-being. However, when it is the task that has to be adapted to a rigid schedule, useful presence is deformed into the dreaded “presenteeism”

Finally, it is important not to make serious mistakes if you aspire to lead a constructive team: it is very attractive for a worker to have someone to learn from, someone who gives security instead of fear, someone who is an example of the things that need to be done.

In order to create a healthy work environment, ifeel’s team of occupational health psychologists have created a key resource to help companies which you can download for free. This resource is designed to inspire HR managers, provide them with key insights into the current challenges facing employees and what we can do to foster a more balanced and productive work environment, unlocking the full potential of the people who make organisations successful.

avoid brain drain

4. Well-structured information 

If you have set a day a week to meet for lunch and share that time, you can improvise on whether to order pizza or sushi. But don’t improvise with the tools you use to retain talent

Nowadays, human resources professionals have multiple tools to systematically measure the emotional atmosphere in their company, the level of engagement of their employees, and the perception they have of having a positive experience as workers. 

Not to mention how useful, when properly conducted, the processes of screening and interviewing job applicants, performance reviews, and offboarding and exit interviews for departing employees can be. This is when they serve not only to attract the most qualified employees but also to retain them. 

Using this methodology to collect and organise useful information is a matter of attitude and is very useful when considering how to avoid brain drain. It is therefore a way to take charge of the occupational health of employees, aligning it with the well-being of the company. 

If HR managers have not yet implemented it or do not know which are the most useful tools for their company, it isn’t a problem, there is still time. They just have to take responsibility for it and ask for the right advice from qualified psychologists in this area. 

Brain drain and mental well-being

By focusing on employees’ mental well-being, organisations can create a more supportive and fulfilling work environment, reducing the risk of brain drain and retaining valuable talent. Here are some tips to focus on well-being:

Well-being workshops: Implement workshops and initiatives like mindfulness training, yoga classes, or meditation sessions to help employees manage stress and improve their mental well-being.

Recognition and appreciation: Recognise and appreciate employees’ contributions regularly to boost their self-esteem and overall mental well-being, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and retention.

Career opportunities: Provide opportunities for career growth and development, which can increase employees’ sense of purpose and job satisfaction, reducing the likelihood of brain drain. This can also be done by providing training opportunities, research shows that 84% of clients reported L&D programmes were effective at reducing turnover and retaining good employees.

Feedback and Evaluation: Regularly seek feedback from employees about their work environment and mental well-being. Use this feedback to make improvements and show that their well-being is a priority. This can be done through regular performance reviews or anonymous questionnaires.

Mental well-being solutions: Offer mental well-being solutions to employees to help employees cope with workplace pressures and reduce burnout. This can include workshops, access to resources and one to one therapy.

Join the global leading solution in mental well-being


Mental well-being solutions for organisations

At ifeel, we partner with companies worldwide to inspire human growth and guide organisations in cultivating a positive mental well-being culture. A tailored and people-centric approach that places your employees’ health at the core, as a fundamental pillar in attracting and retaining talent and enhancing their sense of belonging.

A unique, comprehensive, and scalable solution that uses the power of data to provide a holistic understanding of your employees’ mental well-being, while ensuring service quality and confidentiality for your team.

We hope you found this post on brain drain interesting. If you would like more information about ifeel’s employee well-being platform, simply request it, and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

What is brain drain at work?

Brain drain at work refers to the loss of valuable knowledge, skills, and talent within an organisation when employees leave, retire, or disengage. It can lead to a significant loss of institutional knowledge, hinder productivity, and negatively impact the company’s ability to innovate and compete.

How can companies motivate older employees to stay engaged?

Motivating older employees to stay engaged can involve recognising their contributions, offering flexible work arrangements, and providing opportunities for them to mentor and train younger colleagues. Companies can also create a supportive work environment that values the experience and expertise of older workers.

How can we tell if brain drain is a risk in our company?

Look at the ages and time people have been with the company, ask employees why they leave, and check if people are happy with their jobs. This helps identify potential issues.

Why is it smart to plan for the future to stop brain drain?

Planning for the future means finding and training new leaders from our own team. By doing so, the company will be preventing brain drain actively. So when experienced folks leave, we have skilled people ready to take over and keep things going smoothly.

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