April 28, 2015

How to manage the risk of great employees leaving


What do you do when you hear a key employee is job searching? Or decides to leave? In this competitive market, losing a key employee can cripple your business. Take a risk management approach to this HR issue.

The Facts

You can avoid the risk and influence employee decisions through a specific employment agreement or contract. This may discourage great employees from leaving and under what terms (non-competes, contract expiration date, etc.). However, unless prevented under a specific contract term, an employee leaving voluntarily is possible. If you keep in mind that people need to do what's best for them… it's OK. Be supportive and graceful (if they are a good employee).

Control the Loss

Don't go to your "little kid" and be angry. Instead, focus on what's best for your business and control the loss through prevention and reduction strategies. Keeping your best employees happy and engaged is the best risk prevention. Get compensation right the best you can all of the time, which means it needs to be at market for average employees and at least a step above for the great ones. You can prevent adverse effects on your company by asking the departing employee to do the following: 1) request that they not call your clients; 2) communicate honestly – and mean it – that by leaving they are not burning any bridges and if they seek another opportunity with your company they will be treated respectfully; and 3) offer to mentor them if they are going to another industry with which you are familiar. In this manner, you will earn the respect of those who remain as they see that it is not the end of the world or the relationships developed if they choose to leave.

Employee Experience Quality Improvement

We ask our employees what they would like their career growth path to be, and then help them get there. Remember, it is not too late if you discover that the employee is interviewing. Intervene if it is in the best interests of your company. At the Applied Companies, we have always espoused that meaningful work, open and honest communication, and work-life balance creates the "great place to work" culture here. The reality is that money makes a difference to some folks. We need to keep up-to-date and we go through a salary survey periodically. On a quarterly basis, we ask for honest feedback as to how we can improve as a company. Although we do not have people voluntarily leave the company often, we ask a set of questions before they leave:

What are you not getting here that you can get there?

If you had a magic wand, what would you have changed?

What do you need to stay?

What can they offer that we cannot? Do you really know that we can't? Did you ask us?

Does this decision serve you well?

Be magnanimous. Try to learn where they want to go in life and confirm their decision is going to get them to the end result. That's a risk you should be willing to take.


Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today's workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied's division directors, contributed to this article.

Read the article in the Reno Gazette-Journal here

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