It is smart to maximize your good quits.
There are good quits and bad quits. Good quits include those whose departure brings an enthusiastic celebration of ebullient joy that lasts for months. Then, there are the other kind. Good quits also include people you hate to lose, even though it really is time for them to move on. You can’t hold everyone indefinitely. Virtually every employer suffers from usually inevitable career-enhancing moves by valued contributors who find themselves at the cusp where they must leave your employment to most effectively serve their long-term personal goals and ambitions. As both Compensation Café founder Ann Bares and contributer Laura Schroeder have observed, laudable retention efforts can all too easily slide into an atmosphere of suffocation and detention. Let’s take their thoughts a step farther. If you are going to lose someone, lose them well.
You can’t keep superstars forever. Very few employers have the resources to productively retain the very best workers in their field for as long as they wish. Only extremely unique environments will entice truly talented people to stick around for their entire careers. Superstars, in particular, will draw the attention of recruiters and you will not always be able to insulate them from legitimately better offers. You win some and you lose some; but the parting need not be destructive.
Rather than obsess about retaining every good performer, think about options you can implement to make separation as mutually beneficial as possible. A good quit from a competent worker may be more valuable than an excellent new hire. Not talking about discarding toxic personnel, of course, but about ways to make the evolutionary process of transition for both sides as painless and positive as you can.
There is a lot to be said about gaining a reputation as a wonderful graduate school. When those who move on do so with positive attitutes, the place they describe in thankful and appreciatiative terms will reap benefits for many years. Happy “graduates” build your reputation as a wonderful place to work, easing recruiting and reducing pressure on direct pay.
Letting people leave gracefully can be a talent-building strategy. The tactic of retention can backfire. Locking people up in golden handcuffs is both expensive and ultimately fruitless; it only buys time, at best. Honestly admitting that, “yes, it is time for you to spread your wings, leave the nest and fly, so go with our blessings…,“ can resonate longer and stronger than the best LTIR plan with platinum chains. Folks who speak of their positive seminal developmental experience with you can be the most effective recruiters (and retainers) in the world.
Have you tried it? Experiment, and see what the results are. How people are treated when they leave an employer might be an excellent indicator of the state of the morale of those who remain. What do you think?
E. James (Jim) Brennan is an independent compensation advisor with extensive total rewards experience in most industries. After corporate HR posts and consulting CEO roles, he was Senior Associate of pay surveyor ERI before returning to consulting in 2015. A prolific writer (author of the Performance Management Workbook), speaker and frequent expert witness in reasonable executive compensation court cases, Jim also serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review.
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