Help! My top performer wants to leave the business

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What would you do if you found out one of your valuable team members was looking for a new job?

Do you ignore it, you’re disappointed to lose a great team member but now you sit and wait for them to eventually come to you with their resignation? Do you crack it and start your plan to get in first and exit them from the business even though they have been a solid or top performer, clearly they are disengaged? Or do you sit down and have an honest conversation with them to help them take the next step in their career?

When one our team; who isn’t one of our top performers wants to move on, we are typically happy with this, it’s our opportunity to recruit again and raise the bar. However, there are times when some of our best performers will be ready to move on so as Managers how do we handle these situations?

I have always been of the belief that as a Manager you are better to have open and honest conversations with your team members about their career and help them with their progression. Unfortunately, sometimes that may just mean helping them to take the next step or a side-ways step (depending on what it is they want to do) or a step in a completely new direction with a different business. Sometimes we simply can’t offer an employee the growth and / or development they are ready for and want. Being on the front foot with these conversations has always resulted in better outcomes in my experience.

If you are having regular catch ups with your team members and are able to foster strong relationships you have a much better chance of identifying when a team member is ready for that new challenge or are just no longer the right fit for your business. We can all outgrow a business and a role at times in our career. There will always be some employees that don’t want to be open and talk about what’s next for them with their manager and that’s ok, however as managers we shouldn’t shy away from these conversations.

What are the benefits of being on the front foot, having honest conversations and helping your employee with their transition to a new role?

  • Depending on the size of the organisation, in larger businesses you can sometimes identify other opportunities in different departments allowing you to retain the employee in the business
  • It provides the opportunity to take a step back and look at what other tasks, projects or needs you have in the business to identify ways to retain the employee in the business. Maybe you’ve had this project in the back of your mind for a period of time but have never actioned it however with an employee wanting a new challenge or a change in role scope it could be the ideal time to implement a new project.
  • While your team member might have identified that they need to spread their wings and gain new experiences, it doesn’t mean that things have to end on a sour note. Who’s to say that after a few years experience in another role in another organisation that our employee might be ready to come back. They are not going to want to return if they weren’t supported and encouraged on their exit from the business.
  • It gives you time to plan. Most notice periods are between 2 to 4 weeks but we all know it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to recruit a new team member and have them on board for training and a handover in that period of time. Working with your employee that wants to move on gives you much greater scope to manage their transition out and the transition in of a new employee. This minimises the impact on the business, the workload of other team members and can make life a lot easier.

Sometimes it can be hard not to take it personally when one of your valued team members wants to move on however it is how you handle these situations that can define you as a leader. You can spit the dummy but what will that achieve? Open, honest conversations, and working together to help the employee achieve their career goals will result in much better outcomes for you and for the employee. Don’t let your good employees exit on a sour note all because they want to grow and develop, be proud you have contributed to their career journey.

Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.

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