Don’t panic, but your number one 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:

1. 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.

2. If it’s decided they will leave the company, and they have given you CEO Peer Groups, Leadership Development, Mentoring, Employeeadvanced notice, you will 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 building the skills of an employee, they will just take those new skills 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.

6. 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 there is a noticeable “skills gap” in the workforce is developing especially in certain sectors like Technology and Construction. Companies need to hold onto 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 do 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. You can read about this in the article titled The Cost of Great Leaders; Finding, Keeping or Losing Them.

The photo above is Jeff Meisner and the Skyline Sector 5 team. Jeff is one of our Top Executive Group members and is very intentional to build an environment where the team feels valued and wants to stay and contribute to the success of the team. Way to go Skyline Sector 5!

This may seem like a lot of effort but done over a period of time and with a plan, you can strengthen your team and reduce the anxiety of losing great employees. Need help, we can help you with team assessments, leadership development programs, team building events, and more. Contact me at or at (469) 269 – 5148.

by Robert Hunt 


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