It’s said that, on average, you can expect a new recruit to stay with you for five years, depending upon experience and the industry you work in.
This figure is a lot lower when it comes to people under the age of 35, something Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report confirmed recently when it reported that 43% of ‘millennials’ plan to leave their job within two years.
In the US, employment relationships are even shorter, suggesting the trend for regularly switching employer is here to stay. So, what do you do when someone tells you they’ve found a new opportunity they’d like to explore elsewhere?
Usually, it will take you by surprise, but your immediate reaction can have a huge impact on how you are remembered and spoken about as an employer for years to come.
My advice is not to fight, at least not straight away. If someone is a key employee, it’s going to be difficult to hide your disappointment, but you need to resist the urge to criticise their decision.
I think it helps if you’ve taken a moment to think about what it would be like if one of your team hands in their notice. Having visualised the situation - whether you believe it’s likely to happen or not - you will have a much better chance of keeping calm and staying in control.
In my experience, the majority of people are scared about telling their boss they are leaving. Often their fear overshadows the excitement of being offered a new job because they don’t know how their employer will react.
As a leader and someone who has helped this person grow and develop their skills, you should try to put them at ease and show understanding. Remind yourself that their resignation isn’t personal. No one turns into a ‘traitor’ because they’ve decided to take their career in a new direction.
If you can separate the short-term disruption to your team, hopefully, you will be pleased on a personal level that they’ve found something they believe will make them happier. Let them know this is the case. Thank them for their hard work and show the kind of gratitude they deserve.
If they are brilliant at their job, make sure you offer them the opportunity to come back if they change their mind in the future. You might be surprised at how many will return.
It’s very important that you find out why someone wants to move on, so don’t forget to plan a second catch up to discuss this as soon as possible, but with enough time for you to prepare for the exchange properly.
Between meetings, reflect on whether your team could operate differently. No one is irreplaceable and resignations give you a rare chance to consider whether your human resources can be restructured in a smarter way.
The true colours of a company - and a leader - are often defined during difficult situations but if you’re mentally prepared and handle it professionally, you stand to not only gain the admiration of your soon to be ex-employee, but you’ll get an ambassador for your business too.
If you want to recruit, retain and hire back great people you must show them that you are a responsible, flexible and dynamic employer. Someone who treats people with respect. Anything less than this at the end of their time will simply undo all that has gone before.
Employment is now a relatively short tenure compared to the days when people stayed in one job from the end of education to their retirement party. Whilst a resignation often feels like a disaster, when managed well, it’s amazing how many people look back with hindsight and see the moment as the catalyst to better things for both parties.
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