Stop. Look. Listen.

When a top-performing, long-standing, fiercely loyal or future superstar employee resigns, it can be difficult not to take it personally – especially if it is unexpected and if they’re going to a competitor, ouch! But this is not a time for wound licking, this is a learning opportunity.

The reality is, employees resign when they are no longer satisfied by their role or with the organisation – it’s never just in pursuit of better pay.

And the reason behind this dissatisfaction is two-fold:

The employee has changed…

…and the company has not or has not recognised the change in the employee.

Perhaps the employee’s personal circumstances have changed, yet feel the company culture does not provide a supportive environment or willingness to offer flexible working.

Alternatively, the employee may feel they have outgrown their current position, yet there are no opportunities available for them to advance beyond their role; they’ve reached a blockade or found they’ve hit their head on the glass ceiling. Indeed, they may even have been overlooked for promotion and therefore begin to look for opportunities elsewhere.

The company has changed

For employees to feel valued in an organisation, they need to feel involved in the decision-making processes that affect their role and the business as a whole.

Are you involving your people about changes to the organisational structure, mergers, processes, procedures? Are teams notified before introducing new management structures or external consultants? Surprise changes can be unsettling and upsetting, generating feelings of resentment and resistance; whereas involving your people in key decisions shows trust and value in their opinions.

Similarly, the introduction of new managers – especially those recruited to “take the business to the next level”, replicate their success from another organisation or “sort the department out” – can be disastrous if they do not have effective people and communications skills. If anything, they risk creating a toxic culture that can significantly impact both employee welfare and the bottom line – indeed, where top talent go, others may follow.

Have the goal posts changed? Unannounced changes to job roles, reward systems or appraisals can lead to feelings of frustration; your people no longer know where they stand and rather are left dejected that their efforts not being appreciated or recognised.

So, what do you do when the top talent resigns?

If you’re struggling to keep your key players, it’s time to change your mind set by creating a feedback culture – and a commitment to acting on that feedback.

Frequent, formal and informal, negative and positive feedback is representative of an open and honest company culture. It provides an opportunity to identify and address issues, as well as recognise and build on successes.

It is also integral to understanding how your business is viewed from the inside out. This will help determine what it is that the new role or organisation is offering your top talent that you aren’t.

Most importantly, listen – and I mean really listen – and act upon the feedback. There is no point in asking for feedback if it won’t be acted upon.

A word of warning here about counter offers. They do not work – unless you can also address the employees concerns that led to their resignation and action the changes required.

50% of resigning employees who accept a counter offer are actively looking for another job within 60 days. Counter offers are a short-term solution and do not address the fundamental issue behind the employee’s dissatisfaction at work.

When the top talent resigns, wish them well, offer them a reference, give them the send-off they deserve and part on good terms, but most importantly take stock, ask questions and act on the feedback so you can support, nurture and retain tomorrow’s superstar employees.

Make the first step towards cultivating a feedback culture by talking to Tell Jane. Not only do we offer an employee hotline, but we can provide assessments and advice for improving your company culture, as well as training and workshops. Email to get started.


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