Why does talent leave organizations? Talent retention of trainee program graduates


  • Pavel Král Prague University of Economics and Business
  • Martina Richterová Prague University of Economics and Business
  • Věra Králová Prague University of Economics and Business https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0523-5664




trainee program, talent management, expectation management, talent retention, trainee program paradox


Organizations fight for talent, and talent management has become an integral part of human resource management. Trainee programs are a part of talent management, which allows organizations to attract primarily university graduates with high potential. Trainee programs are highly selective and require high investment. However, much of the talent successfully finishing trainee programs (i.e. trainee program graduates) leave the organization before they can return the investment to the organization. The literature on talent management is centered around the process of attraction and development of talent but stays silent about talent retention. Thus, this research identifies and explores the reasons why trainee program graduates leave organizations.

The study draws on a qualitative case study of the largest car producer in the Czech Republic with an established and highly developed trainee program. Data comprises of four sources: First, the interviews with the trainee program graduates, both who remained or left the organization after finishing the trainee program. Second, extensive internal talent management documentation related to the trainee program. Third, the consultations with human resource management specialists. Fourth, field notes from employee’s non-participant observation. Grounded theory analysis was used to analyze the data.

The findings reveal three overarching factors that determine the turnover of trainee program graduates: the sense of uniqueness, instantaneity, and privilege. These factors represent expectations that are set by the organization but are not achieved by the trainee program graduates. These factors uncover the underlying paradoxical nature of trainee programs, which is highlighted by two trainee program paradoxes: focus paradox and prestige paradox.

The research has several theoretical contributions. In the first place, the findings expand talent management literature by identifying critical issues that may lead to talent drainage instead of talent retention. This research also contributes to generational cohort theory. Practical implications provide suggestions on how to integrate trainee programs into human resource management practices to achieve expected and desired benefits of talent management for organizations.