It's Inevitable That Good Employees Will Leave, So Plan for It
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Instead of looking at departures as an arrow in the heart of a company's culture, a sudden change in the line up can be a source of momentum and inspiration. It's important for business owners to seize the opportunity to make improvements, rather than dwell on it as a failure.
Anticipate the departures. Job-hopping every couple of years no longer carries the stigma it used to. It's a continuing trend that business owners need to work with.
The movement towards shorter tenures should inform everything employers do from compensation to career roadmaps to hiring for redundancy. Employers don't have a reason to leave the rest of their team hanging when someone important leaves. Build it into the company's proactive game plan.
Knowing where employees are headed long term is equally important. Some folks view their job as just something they do for a paycheck. Others are planning to start their own company. Our responsibility as employers is to help employees meet career objectives that are aligned with the company's objectives. Taking the pulse of an employee's engagement through check-ins and reviews is not enough. Business owners need to reach out farther than just the next few months.
Guide the team through the transition with honest communication. As easy as it is to brew on an employee's departure, leaders need to move quickly to fill the void on both a morale and resources level. How quick? Quicker than it takes for rumors or misinterpretations to settle in with the rest of the company.
If there is an organizational problem that led to the departure, it needs to be addressed in short order. Inaction will lead to subsequent employees quitting. Discuss the problems openly with the team. Do it in person and do it with a sense of humility and camaraderie. You are a team. Teams solve problems together.
If the departure is simply because of a difference in where the employee was headed and where the company was going, well, let the team know that. Dispel any myths by acknowledging openly that it's a natural progression.
Reflect for a moment. Lastly, a departing employee means there's an opportunity to evaluate the position and hire someone more capable and better suited to where the company is headed. Even the most productive employees can be one-upped. This is an opportunity to improve the team to become more skilled, dynamic and visionary.
I still get caught up thinking that my organization is doing something wrong every time someone chooses to leave it. But I've learned to move on from letting it drag me down because morale (or lack thereof) is contagious. To quote one of my business partners, "companies are living, breathing organisms, and its employees are the air they breathe." Business leaders need to remember that each and every time they hire, fire or deal with a departing employee.