Why you should let your best employees leave
To be completely honest, our industry lives off of your company’s attrition. When you lose your best employee, we as recruiters gain a highly marketable candidate. So yes, if you think we have a vested interest in the topic – you’re right. But that’s not why we’re writing this article.
Recruiting has one of the highest turnover rates of any industry. With every new year, multiple star recruiters will leave our ranks – destined for something or somewhere else. And while upsetting, this has made us experts of attrition, both the good and the bad.
Few people will retire at your company.
Even the best companies – the ones that win all the ‘best places to work’ awards and offer in-chair massages and free daycare – are plagued by higher than desirable turnover rates. Not every company can be every person’s perfect match, and that’s perfectly okay.
Even you, as a hiring manager or executive, will likely leave your current business someday. You will do this not because you are unhappy at your current job, but because as humans we have a natural drive to see what’s next, what’s more, what’s possible.
To expect your employees to stay with you throughout their careers is irrational. As their lives change, so do their needs and expectations at work. Accept this fact, appreciate it, and plan accordingly.
New people bring new perspectives, approaches, and visions.
There’s a reason universities don’t let you complete your Bachelors, Masters, and PhD at one institution. They don’t want you to learn from a single set of teachers – in other words, they see the value of gaining new perspectives from new mentors. Not only that, but they want you to come to their school having already gained institutional knowledge from other sources, so that you can share that hard-earned information.
The same goes for businesses. When you hire someone new, you aren’t just hiring their personality or their skills or their connections. You’re hiring the accumulated knowledge of all the other companies at which they’ve worked. That information is invaluable if you want to stay competitive.
Of course, this only works if you’re hiring the right replacement. It’s easy to get caught up in ‘our’ way of doing things, but maybe there are better ways out there. You just haven’t hired the right person, from the right company, to show you.
Rather promote from within? That’s often just as rewarding. Not only are you offering your employees the chance to prove their value and push their boundaries, but you’re also showing other workers that they too may one day rise to the top ranks of your organization.
Stasis is the enemy. (Good) attrition is the solution.
One thing is for certain; stasis hinders progress. If you want to build a business that is sustainable and scalable, you’ll need a steady stream of innovators and leaders coming through your door.
So stasis is bad. Does that mean by consequence attrition is good?
Of course not. Attrition can mean a lot of things, but good isn’t usually one of them. When you think of attrition, you should really be dividing the concept in two – healthy attrition and harmful attrition.
Healthy attrition: One of your directors unexpectedly resigns. The role is split up between a few capable people who now have a chance to prove their merits. Are one or both of these people suitable to take over permanently? Will you need to hire a new director from outside? Or will a consultant be necessary to buy you some time? No matter your decision, you are excited by the fact that you will now be able to incorporate new ideas into your business. You have prepared for moments like these and have taken the necessary precautions to avoid overwhelming your team with extra work. This is not the first of many resignations to come – it’s a chance to explore new perspectives in a controlled environment.
Harmful attrition: You don’t see the departure coming, and you haven’t had the chance to adequately adjust your protocols to minimize the collateral damage. Your team is struggling to keep up with the extra work and morale is low. In a panic, you hire a new person without proper vetting and end up with a professional in need of serious training – all while your current staff are already overworked. More resignations follow as people lose faith in the new director and the company’s ability to handle the situation. To top it all off, the culture you so meticulously cultivated is in danger of dissipating.
Take Greenhouse CTO Mike Bouffard as a case study: after building an engineering team with zero regrettable attrition, he found himself wondering why he was so scared of losing people. He shares, “I realized I’d been too concerned with the number of people who may leave when what really mattered was why they want to leave.”
Why are your people leaving? Therein lies the key to healthy vs. harmful attrition.
If you are losing employees because they are looking for something new and different – something that only another specific company can offer – then wish them well and send them on their way. If, on the other hand, you’re losing employees because they are dissatisfied with your work conditions and feel stunted professionally, it’s time to make some changes.
How to handle the loss of a top worker
Next time a beloved employee leaves – congratulate them. There is nothing to fear so long as resignations don’t become the new normal. Most people leave, and it’s often for the better. Your company could use some fresh perspective.
If you’re struggling to replace that irreplaceable worker – send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are constantly in touch with highly-qualified professionals looking for the next company to call home.
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