First of all: Stop the DRAMA! If you don’t, who will? The fact that people leave the company is a perfectly normal thing and, believe me, it is not as bad as it seems. Nobody is irreplaceable. With that said, a working relationship is not a marriage, it should stay dynamic, flow naturally and be kept only so long as it makes sense for both parts.
Keeping good employees vs. avoiding the bad ones
When the time comes that somebody is about to leave… well, it is probably too late to do anything already. Of course, there is the chance to have a long, sincere and honest conversation with the person who’s leaving, find out the reasons that motivated this decision. This is important to do so as sometimes even slight changes can make the person reconsider. It does tend to take time for a person to make a decision like this, and once it is verbalized, it is normally already too late.
For you, the main point to assess is: look around and see who do you have in the organization, who you want to keep and why do you want to keep them. Ask yourself, who should you keep no matter what, who should you make grow, and who you know it’s not going to grow and won’t be any worse if they eventually leave anyway? This is a question you should ask yourself periodically, and define clear action points after it.
People have different growing curves, they are usually defined by their own ambition, talent capabilities, and the manager’s ability to develop them and push their growth. Those curves are all different, let’s look at some facts:
Some employee learning curves are so steep that exceed the possibilities of the organization to foster their growth. And there is little managers can do sometimes other than taking the maximum profit of the time they spend in the company. At least make sure they have all possible room to grow, all challenges on the table, give them the necessary empowerment and learn from their drive as long as they last. Eventually, they will leave, as much as it hurts. But that’s ok, good for them to recognize their potential!
In many cases, companies can actually foster the growth of their employees. The HR manager has to make sure the company uses all in its power to develop its people and help them grow.
In other cases, employees don’t grow and the company doesn’t see possibilities for their growth. Those are the people that the company has to let go with no trauma. That’s part of the natural organizational order. Others will take their place and face their former work with more enthusiasm. These are harsh realities in the workplace, but as I said before, very little things in this life are irreplaceable.
So, how do you avoid losing those good employees?
A common phrase among HR people is “people don’t leave jobs, they leave their boss”. This makes sense. As I mentioned before, a manager controls a lot of factors that matter to people at work every day. Now, how to develop people and prevent their leaving:
One on ones with managers are mandatory. That is the only place to detect deeper problems with employees. Let them talk. Find out about their goals and ambitions, and align them to the business vision.
Ask clear questions such as: is there anything you think you can do to make us grow faster or to make this business better? Trying out their ideas, actively using empowerment, allowing mistakes, is what actually makes people grow.
Sometimes honesty works wonders. Asking people “are you learning in your current project?” People will surprise you with their honesty.
Nobody should leave because they want to grow more and the company values and needs their talent. Managers should help develop their teams, this should be one of their primary goals. And before you start recruiting for that employee’s replacement, stop and think about whether you should recruit a direct replacement or use the resignation as an opportunity to make some tweaks.
What’s important in employee retention…
If employees can’t do their work, managers should help them. If they don’t know how to do their work, managers should teach them. When the problem is that they don’t want this help… well, then you just found a great candidate to leave the company. It sounds harsh, but with practice, it becomes quite simple. Even if sometimes it looks like people are not happy, the organization looks like a war zone, everybody seems to be about to leave at once… Calm down, it takes longer o and really strong reasons for people to make relevant decisions such as leaving. Do your thing, work with managers, work on one on ones, spread the vision, and eventually, things will start going as they should. Think about the impact on the rest of the team all of this may have and all in all, keep it fair because life is all about being fair, not square.