No matter how much time, money and effort you invest in your people, at some point, one of your shining stars is going to walk. But bury the disappointment, as this is an opportunity to improve.
Ask the tough question and push for an honest answer. Why?
Was it the team? Have they been mismanaged? Were they disillusioned with their pay, benefits, or working hours? Was their career progression path evident and aligned with their expectations? Perhaps their personal development had plateaued. Accurately identifying the reason for an employee’s departure is the most valuable piece of information an HR team can obtain from someone exiting the business. This is no time to be feint-hearted, nor to let personal judgements interfere with your interpretation of what you hear. You’re asking this person to expose themselves; do them the courtesy of listening objectively to what they have to say.
Look to your competitors
Assessing vacancies from competing brands and comparing these to your own can be revealing. How do they stack up? Could more innovative and creative job ads be causing your employees eyes to wander? It helps to know in advance how far you are prepared to go to retain someone valuable. Establishing a predetermined policy here will guard against knee-jerk reactions that can unbalance your workforce. How does your employer brand shape up? Are your compensation packages competitive? Are your investments in training and personal development as well communicated in the market as your rivals? Money is almost never the sole driver of an employee’s departure. With this in mind, it is good practice for management and HR to work together to identify individual motivations in their employees. This knowledge can be used to personalise their employment, which can also reduce their likelihood of departure.
Identifying talented individuals and introducing measures to nurture their development is imperative. A clearly defined structure will help here, formalising feedback from buddy schemes, for example, can help ID issues before they become problems. Fast-track schemes for high achievers can help all employees raise their game and derive greater satisfaction through their heightened achievements. Soliciting feedback and direction from workers on both social and professional company initiatives will decrease the number of ‘misses’ in your corporate activity schedules.
Information, information, information
A lack of transparency can be a culture killer. Not that every management decision should be communicated (far from it), but maintaining a regular flow of updates on the firm’s direction and successes is vital if your workforce is to remain engaged in the business. Internal focus groups or surveys administered by HR can also provide useful insights into job satisfaction, often enabling conditions to be readjusted before it’s too late.
Look on the bright side
Failing to retain talent can be like a thorn in the side. It’s tough not to take it personally. But it pays to remember that it can never be totally eliminated, no matter how many measures you put in place. What is important is to work to minimise its frequency and treat each departure as an opportunity to identify areas of weakness which can be addressed in the future.
Talented employees are almost always recognised by their colleagues and, as a result, are key influencers within the business. It’s important to be aware of this, not least because if the relationship sours, the impact of their negativity on your corporate culture can be swift and severe. Sometimes it’s best to let them go without a fight. Finally, for the same reason parting on good terms is also important, even if it pains you to do so - their influence can be sustained long after they have left the building. Remember, it’s ok to let people go – don’t take it personally and it can be better for the individual and the team left behind. The manner of their departure may lead the way to a return in the future should the right opportunity arise. HR should strive to create evangelists of everyone that passes through the business, talented or otherwise. This is a central tenet of a strong employer brand and should not be underestimated.
By Sinead Hasson, founder of Hasson Associates