Keeping John or Retention in the High Tech World

I thought I’d try something a little different this week and get all of you involved with a column. I think it will be fun to explore some collaborative column development and get the input and ideas from all of you creative and experienced readers! I present a case study below, which I will comment on next week. Meanwhile, I would like all of you to begin a dialogue about this case and try to answer the questions I pose at the end of it. I will incorporate your ideas and thoughts into the summary and final analysis next week.

Let me know if you like this format, and if so, I’ll do this once in a while.


John came to work, as usual, at 9:30 am. He joined his teammates in continuing to debug the code they had written over the past few months. As each of them had written a module, they were now in the process of making sure all the modules worked together. Of course, this was the tedious part of the job, but everyone understood how important it was to the success of their product. John, the senior programmer, was responsible for a major module and was called upon by everyone for advice and help in working through the bugs.

The team had just passed the critical point in writing the code, and everyone was certain that they would be able to meet their shipment dates. Management was ecstatic and had promised the customers a gala event to unveil the product. All the senior guys and gals had been around to slap the backs of the team members and tell them how much they appreciated their contribution.

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His boss, whom he rarely met with because of the intense team programming environment and time commitments, was reasonable and let John do what he wanted to within the corporate limits. He also stopped John in the hall and told him he’d done a great job on the project.

John had been at the firm for 2 years now, and this was the fulfillment of his second team-based software development project. He loved working in the team setting and really enjoyed the give-and-take, the camaraderie and the fun they all had together. The worst thing was seeing the team break up and move on to new things. His salary was really pretty good – almost 12% more than his friend with similar skills made at a competitor near by — and he had all the flexibility in scheduling he wanted.

Yet, somehow he wasn’t committed. He felt that he contributed a lot more than he got any credit for. He had recently decided to start looking for another job as soon as this project finished. He even thought he might try to do some freelancing because the money was so good. But, he also did enjoy working with a dedicated group of people toward a goal.

Questions for you:

  1. Why is John thinking about leaving? How would you feel if you were John?
  2. Does John’s boss have any responsibility for John’s lack of commitment?
  3. Is John being treated as an “investor” as an “asset” or as something else? Does it matter?

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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