Eventually all the planks are replaced. However, the old planks were stored and secretly reassembled into an identical ship. Two ships now float side by side. Which is the original?
Most managers assert that people are largely interchangeable, like the planks of our ship. They come and they go, but the organization remains basically the same over time. Others believe that people are the organization. In this belief system, each plank is unique. Which is right?
To the extent you feel people are essential and irreplaceable, you should direct your efforts toward the activities, processes and policies that attract and retain the very best people. These include a great corporate culture, outstanding benefits, salary, work setting, desirable promotions, stock or options.
If you feel the planks (and people) are interchangeable, you worry about different things and focus your efforts differently. People change careers every few years, so you don't worry about retention. Rather, you gear up systematically to hire great people.
Use them up. Let them move on. There will always be a new cohort of good people coming along. Lance Kurke is president of Kurke & Associates Inc., a strategic planning and leadership development firm. He serves on the faculty at Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon Universities. Reach him at (412) 281-2930.