Robert Hunt is the Owner of Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas. Robert works with Owners and CEOs of companies in DFW through monthly CEO Peer Advisory Groups in Dallas, Business Coaching, and Leadership Development. He helps leaders remove obstacles that keep them from reaching their personal and professional goals. He has a background in Marketing and Business Development with over 25 years of leadership in technically demanding industries such as Aerospace, Composites, Printed Circuit Boards, and Wireless Telecommunications.
Don’t Panic, But Your #1 Employee Just Quit!
These words can send even the most experienced CEO into a panic and often catches you totally unprepared. If this were to happen today, what would you do:
- Be happy they are finally going somewhere else?
- Make plans to replace them as soon as possible?
- Throw up in your trash can over the stress of replacing them?
If it is clear your employee is leaving, how you handle it sends loud signals to all who remain, and will strengthen or weaken the team that is left picking up their work. Your response can inspire other employees to become even more committed to your company, or lead them to consider if now is a good time to start looking elsewhere. Here are some things you should consider when faced with this issue:
- Resist the hurt feelings of abandonment and meet with this employee privately to see if you can get to the real issue. Based on what you learn you can try to convince them to stay (if they are someone you really want to keep) by offering more money, better position or title, or attempting to solve whatever reason they give for leaving (i.e. the drive is too far, they don’t like the work schedule, they hate that everyone brings their stupid pets to the office, etc.). If there is no good solution, then you should treat them fairly and according to the culture and standards of your company.
- If it’s decided they will leave the company, and they have given you advanced notice, you need to decide if they should stay the full time, or leave right away. In order to keep the rumors from getting out of control, inform the entire team as soon as possible. Although many people will most likely already know this was happening, you need to communicate that things are under control and you have a plan to assure things will not fall apart when this employee leaves. Focus on making an effective transition by choosing a replacement and getting them ready to take over, even temporarily. Then, turn your attention to the rest of the team that is still working for you and be proactive in their development.
- Address the issues that led your employee to quit as these are probably affecting other team members as well. Talk privately with your team members and ask them about this issue and see if they feel the same way or how it affects them. After this, call a company meeting to update everyone and discuss how you are going to address this issue. Remind them of our vision and how the new employee structure will allow us to reach our goals so they feel assured things are still under control.
- This is a good time to clean house and make room for better team members. Review your team and see who YOU wish had given notice instead. Find a way to help them become a better employee, or move them out of the company. Don’t let someone just exist in a role because you have no one else, invest in them so they can become a valuable part of the team, or get someone who can. I cannot tell you how many times our group members have struggled over letting go of one of their team members, just to find out how much better things are after they leave. If it’s time for someone to go, do it now, or things will get worse.
- Invest in your employees to create the team you always wanted to have. It’s a lot cheaper to spend more on an employee you already have, then to go find, hire, train, and integrate a new one. Not to mention the loss in productivity, the effect on your customers, and on company morale. Once you know what the team needs, invest to fix it. This will have the effect of creating better leaders and better followers who can lead others by their example.
Resist the fear that if you invest in skills of an employee, they will just take the new skill and go elsewhere. If you have a company with vision, passion, and a positive environment, they will stay, and you’ll have a highly skilled and loyal leader. If they leave, you probably have bigger issues you need to address. Zig Ziglar always said we should worry less about training people and having them leave us for another company, than NOT training them and having them STAY.
- Be proactive. Things change all the time so stay connected to your employees. Ask your team members questions to understand how they think and feel, then have follow-up conversations to take it even deeper. This will give you great insights into your team and let the employees see that you are approachable and they can bring issues to you, rather than looking for another job.
How to Keep the Good Ones
Don’t assume that everyone in your company is glad just to have a job. The market is picking up, companies are hiring again and a noticeable “skills gap” in the workforce is developing, especially in the Technology sector. Companies need to hold on to the good employees they have today, or face a struggle in replacing them. Baby Boomers continue to drop out of the workforce taking years of valuable wisdom and experience with them, and the younger, less experienced workers, may not be able to (or want to) fill in the gaps when a key employee decides to move on.
Believe it or not, most employees leave a company for reasons other than wanting more money. Having a bad boss is one of the biggest reasons. People also leave because they feel the company has no vision (i.e. “this place is going nowhere so why would I stay here?”), no empathy, no drive or motivation, or it’s no fun. Yes, work should also be fun. Read more in this Forbes article on "6 Reasons Why Your Best Employee Quit."
The younger generation of workers coming into the workforce does not always share the same “work ethic” or mindset about work that the older generation does. How we find and retain great employees requires a plan that goes beyond the HR department and into the very core of who you are as a company.
For more insight on this topic, read "Why Your Employees are Quitting and How to Keep Them" from MATRIX's Regional Director of Recruiting.