In order to motivate staff and avoid a brain drain, companies need to provide their people with plenty of space to express themselves and then reward the successful initiatives they come up with.

Interview with Franck Nouyrigat, the brains behind the idea of Start-up week-ends.

L'Atelier: We regularly hear people talking about companies suffering a “brain drain” – seeing their top talent leave.  What can a company do to keep its best people?

Franck Nouyrigat: It’s not so much the company itself as the culture that needs to change. Often, by the time they reach the top, companies have become far too heavy-footed and risk-averse. Which means that the employees generally find their freedom of action extremely restricted. They don’t get the chance to express their abilities and ideas beyond the basic framework of their own department or specific job– despite the fact that they have so many social and communication tools at their fingertips. So, my watchword is: have faith in your people. Give them the means to fulfil their ambitions, and reward initiative-taking. More concretely, from the moment when an employee puts forward an idea that could prove beneficial for the company, the idea should be channelled up to the decision-makers through company internal networks. Then it will be up to them to allocate the technical and financial resources to the employee so that s/he can bring it to fruition.   

Along these lines, how can a company use the new technological tools available?

To achieve these changes efficiently, what a company absolutely must do is foster an open attitude across its various departments and ensure efficient information flow from one department to another. Social networks, online discussion groups and so forth, these new networking tools must be the main vector for change. Another important concept is the link-up between private and working life. The boundary is blurring more and more, and people are looking for continuity between what they do at the office and the lives they lead at home.

On the other hand, I don’t think that the "gamification" process, which has been praised to the skies for quite a while now, is really relevant. In my view it’s only a smokescreen, a reworking of the old "employee of the month" idea. Make use of new technologies, sure, but on condition that they are used in a targeted and relevant way. 

Finally, what implications do your ideas have for the company itself?

In order to evolve in the right direction, companies must integrate technological innovation into their very way of operating, and not just be satisfied with a kind of "sprinkling" effect. What’s required is a paradigm shift, but large corporations, which tend not to be very flexible, find it hard to take on this kind of change. However, we are now seeing the emergence of companies which, despite being quite large, are managing to apply this process. In most cases these are IT companies, where the working methods are widely based on Generation Y culture.