At the end of the 2014 NFL regular season, the Baltimore Ravens  found out just how secure an employee’s verbal commitment can be to an organization. Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak left the organization for a Head Coaching job in Denver just one short week after exclaiming that he would not entertain any potential job offer from other NFL teams. While it’s true that he did not “seek” a position, it’s hard to back down from a job offer from a friend. This post shares four key takeaways that organizations can learn from this article and strengthen their employee retention.

1) You can’t keep a good employee down for long. When you on-board a new employee, the reality is that the clock is already ticking on how long they’ll stay.  The era of employees sticking around for 20 years and retiring with a pension and a watch is long gone. According the the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, an employee’s average tenure with a company is 4.6 years. The Baltimore Ravens offense reached record highs in several statistical categories in the 2014 season – Kubiak’s first and only season with the franchise as Offensive Coordinator – and now he’s off to another team with entirely new expectations to fulfill as Head Coach. Don’t let the reason an employee leaves your organization be because they’ve outgrown you.

2) Just because someone isn’t looking for a job, doesn’t mean they won’t let a job find them. Prior to accepting the Head Coaching position with the Denver Broncos, and other sources reported that Kubiak had every intention of staying in Baltimore and not seeking any position elsewhere. This may have been true but just because your employee isn’t looking for a job elsewhere, doesn’t mean that employers aren’t seeking to poach your employees.  Social media sites like LinkedIn and networking events make it easier for recruiters to identify top prospects for their organizations. Do your best to keep your employee engagement levels high and you’ll retain your employees longer.

3) Give your employees the room to grow, or they’ll grow someplace elseAre you offering training and promotion opportunities? Do managers encourage leadership and autonomy within their ranks? If not, you may lose your top employees. The Ravens organization has it’s hierarchy set for years to come and there was no room for Kubiak to elevate to Head Coach. In order to prevent your organization from experiencing brain drain at the top of the organization, give them space and time to grow as individuals and professionals. Create mentorship training programs for entry level high potential employees and executive training for senior employees. Always, always, always acknowledge and reward the accomplishments of these employees.

4) Never underestimate the importance of relationships. When key employees excel in your organization, odds are they have established relationships with other rising stars in the past. After all, research shows that friendship is more important than pay or benefits, and strongly correlates to productivity, safety, customer loyalty and profitability. Gary Kubiak and John Elway, current General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos, have a relationship that extends 32 years.  Kubiak was Elway’s back up quarterback during their playing days in Denver and Kubiak’s youngest son is currently an intern in the Broncos personnel department. When a job comes chasing one of your employees, it’s very hard to combat that with pay, promotion or other incentives.