By: Thomas Schlick
Have you ever had an employee leave voluntarily whom you really didn’t want to lose? We often call this “regrettable turnover” – because when these people leave your organization they take a part of your company’s future with them.
Let me share a personal story with you. I was recruiting a top shelf MBA for a key role in my organization. It seemed like it took forever to find and hire just the right person. “Mike” joined us in the Spring, and we spent the next several weeks training and on-boarding him for the key role for which he was hired. While Mike was coming up to speed fast, I felt a certain uncomfortableness – and I wasn’t sure why. Mike was smart, had an MBA from Harvard, and was a terrific strategic thinker. But for some reason, the personal connection was not what I had thought it would be.
And then it happened. Mike left the company after 9 months! I was devastated – and embarrassed. We had spent considerable resources finding and recruiting the best person we could for the job. Mike was doing great work and was a fast learner. What I learned next was sobering. Mike’s exit interview with HR clearly pointed to the problem – me! What I had failed to do was help Mike feel a part of our company’s family. I was so focused on the “nuts and bolts” of the job he was doing that I didn’t take the time to show Mike how valued he was as a person. Mike left because he didn’t feel his manager (me) really cared about him. I had really blown it!
Great people are hard enough to find, particularly in a hot job market, so keeping your “rock stars” becomes even more critical. These are your “go-to” people who solve problems, create opportunities, innovate with new ideas, and motivate others to engage and excel. They often set, epitomize, and cement the company’s culture.
So, back to Mike. What did I learn from this experience? I always thought people left for a better job, higher salary, or cool new title. But that wasn’t the case with Mike. Now, fast-forward to today. A statistic from a recent Gallup poll really caught my eye. According to Gallup, over half (51%) of employees voluntarily exiting their company said that neither their manager nor any other leader in the company spoke to them about their job satisfaction or their future with the company in the three months prior to leaving.
Let that sink in.
For three months, nobody spoke with them about how they felt about their job. And nobody asked them a single question about their future. Maybe they inferred that they didn’t have one! That certainly was the case with Mike and his departure from our company.
Thankfully, there are some fairly simple ways to prevent your rock stars from leaving. From this experience, here are two that work:
- First, communicate directly with your employees – and particularly to those whom you would consider a “regrettable loss” – about their job satisfaction and future career opportunities. Millennials, in particular, want to hear about how they can “make a difference” in your organization. Why not let them?
- Second, make such conversations a part of your regular one-on-one conversations or monthly/quarterly reviews with your team. The random hallway conversation is certainly helpful – and making them part of your formal communication structure is even better!
Training your managers to have routine, meaningful conversations around job satisfaction and future job opportunities with their employees really matters. You not only will avoid “regrettable losses,” but you will help sustain the culture you and they have worked hard to create. In short, by focusing on building your rock stars’ future, you will be more assured of securing your own.
Don’t take your rock stars for granted. Make sure they get an audience and the applause they deserve. I wish could go back in time and practice this lesson on myself. Mike’s future – and our company’s – could have been remarkably different.