What if you train your employees, and they leave?

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I recently stumbled upon this cartoon and laughed to myself about the sad reality it presents. At Wamda, we’ve heard numerous stories of startups that have poured time and resources into training new talent and many who have taken it upon themselves to fill in the educational gaps present in a young ecosystem.

But, while some entrepreneurs may expect the hours and money they invest in training their team to pay off in loyalty and long service, the reality is that once trained, some employees may seek opportunities elsewhere. This is especially likely when their newfound skills are needed in more established and higher-paying companies that a startup salary just can’t compete with.

While this may seem a grim outlook, it’s no excuse not to train new team members. No matter where they are, startups should expect to do a bit of training to build talent that may not be readily available. Some, like Jordan's now-folded TakTek Games, have seen their trained talent poached by larger companies in other countries, yet others, like Wixel Studios and Com Fu in Lebanon, have been able to build an effective team dynamic and retain talent. 

"People are going to move to Saudi. They are going to get poached,” Kaushal Shah of IT services company Aspire.jo told Wamda earlier this year. “And you can't just pay more, because you're going to price yourself out. But there are a lot of things that we do internally to manage that.” Aspire.jo has created an internal mentorship program that ensures that new hires are continually shadowing existing leaders, in several departments. It took time to set up, but the company wouldn't have become a wild success without it.

The bottom line is that the risk of losing team members to competition will always be there, whether you invest in your employees or not. The question remains, however, do you want to grow and advance your team's skills, or not? As the suit on the right points out, it's not really a choice. Although loyalty is great, without the skills, dedication alone won’t take your startup to the next level.

Do you agree? Have you ever lost a skilled employee to a higher paying job? How do you keep employees loyal and what challenges are you facing in this space?

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