Five Keys to Avoiding the Brain Drain

Brain drain is one of the phenomena that most concerns companies. However, what steps can be taken to avoid it?
Five Keys to Avoiding the Brain Drain

Last update: 26 June, 2022

In certain environments, it’s easy to find evidence to support the hypothesis that the worker is as important as the CEO. Indeed, there are many companies that, after losing certain employees, consider avoiding a brain drain of their organization.

Brain drain is a term that became known among the general public during the economic crisis that began in 2008. Back then, it referred to the mass migration of people who’d just finished their studies and found job opportunities in other countries.

Today, in a society of somewhat greater injustice, the brain drain has become apparent among companies themselves and not only countries. For instance, when a valued employee leaves his position, the consequences for the organization can be serious. Here, we explore various strategies to avoid it.

The brain drain

As we mentioned earlier, the term brain drain refers to the migration of qualified people, either from a country or a company. These people often leave because they’ve found a better opportunity or because they can no longer stand the conditions in which they work (or both).

As a result, the company loses competitiveness within its sector. Usually, until they find someone equally qualified and train them, the damage is irreversible. For this reason, avoiding the brain drain is increasingly necessary for organizations.

Woman collecting things from her work
Brain drain doesn’t have a defined age range, although it affects young people more.

Causes of the brain drain

Why would someone leave their permanent job? After all, work is the only method of survival for many people. This is an idea that’s deeply rooted, especially in baby boomers and millennials. However, the fear of changing jobs is becoming increasingly less. Let’s take a look at the causes of this change:

  • Working conditions and wages are getting worse, especially in those sectors that use a large number of base employees (hospitality, retail, construction, etc.). Consequently, people tend to leave their jobs for another as soon as they can, as their health and finances are often threatened by precariousness.
  • Career Stagnation. When employees are unable to fulfill their potential, it’s logical that they’re attracted to other positions that allow them to advance in their careers.
  • Unexpected offers from other companies.
  • Loss of motivation. It shouldn’t be expected that the objectives of the company are the same as those of the workers themselves. However, it’s true that discomfort in positions makes workers’ performance decrease.
  • Bad bosses. Leadership is a skill that every manager and middle manager should cultivate. In fact, people who don’t know how to manage their work teams are usually one of the main reasons for the brain drain.
  • Moments of crisis. Socioeconomic and political factors are also a factor to be taken into account. Economic crises, wars, and dictatorships are some examples.

Keys to avoiding the brain drain

You might identify with some of the reasons set out in the previous section, whether you’re an employee or an employer. Nevertheless, it can be prevented. Below, we discuss several steps you can take.

1. Improve the conditions of your employees

It’s true that not everything that motivates a worker is their salary, but it must be worthy and according to their duties. Work-life balance, social benefits, and other job improvements are measures that should also be considered to prevent brain drain.

2. Take care of the work environment

It doesn’t matter how high a salary is if your workers end up suffering from depression. No one should feel fear or anxiety when going to work. Corporate values must be established based on respect, teamwork, and conciliation.

3. Favor internal promotion

People like (and deserve) to advance in their careers, no matter what position they hold. When someone finds themselves stuck in the same position, it makes sense that they want to find a place where their skills are appreciated.

4. Create self-sufficient employees

Although in many companies there’s an established hierarchy, the most important thing is that each individual is able to carry out their duties autonomously. This, in addition to improving productivity, will be a protection factor when someone leaves their position.

Woman working
Workers able to work autonomously are usually comfortable at the work level. This influences their productivity.

5. Create a healthy work culture

A company isn’t a family. However, it’s possible for employees to go to work feeling happy. This is done by creating a culture of respect, conciliation, and healthy productivity. Work should be efficient, dignified, and enjoyable for everyone. That makes people want to stay.

Organizations work thanks to the effort and sacrifice of all the people who make them up. For this reason, in order to avoid the brain drain, talents need to be recognized, appreciated, and rewarded. Only then can a company be assured of employees who’ll make the company prosper.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Jarne Muñoz, A., Almudi Higueras, I., Jarne Jarne, G., & Sánchez Chóliz, J. Reflexiones sobre fuga de talentos y política industrial.
  • De La Rosa Garcia, C. P. (2016). Estructuración de plan para disminuir fuga de talentos en una empresa del sector Industrial (Master’s thesis, Universidad de Guayaquil).
  • Ott, D. L., Tolentino, J. L., & Michailova, S. (2018). Effective talent retention approaches. Human resource management international digest.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.