I suspect I’m beginning to experience, and hopefully learn how to deal with, one of the more challenging aspects of being a manager: when employees leave for other jobs.
I have been on the job for just over a year. I started October 2011. So 15 months. When I first took the job, one of the employees on the team immediately took a job with the federal government. Then one of the people who started with me left after less than a month. (That’s a whole nuther story! I was actually extremely happy when he quit and did a little happy dance.) The person I was filling in for came back in December and promptly left to work for the federal government. I hired two employees in January to fill the voids and bring the team up to full staffing. At that point, I had six direct reports. In September, one employee who I had promoted left for another company and we weren’t able to replace him due to funding, so down to five. Then in January, we lost a very valuable member of our team, who took a job with the federal government (down to four). This one was tough! I actually considered this guy a bit of a confidant and we had numerous philosophical discussions during the year. Because of our relationship, he was very forthcoming with why he left the team and went to work for the government. He’s an older dad of a young boy and he picked up some really good benefits and leave. We can’t compete with that. I did get a replacement for him hired last week and they start in February (back up to five).
Now I have another member of my team who is probably going to leave. He got an offer for more money from another company. We are talking to him to try to keep him, but I don’t think he’ll stay (down to four again).
Going back and counting up everything, that’s a lot of turnover. Actually, there’s now only one person with longer tenure than me. And I’ve only been there 15 months. And actually, my goal is to replace him within the next six months. He’s a great worker, and has done phenomenally well at the job, but we both know it isn’t his passion. He recently passed a technical certification exam that is rather difficult, and that’s where he really wants to be. So I told him I was going to try to help him find another job at our firm in his preferred field.
I truly care about my people’s careers. I want them all to be happy (or at least reasonably so) in their work. If they want to progress and advance, I want that for them. And I’ll never begrudge someone leaving for more money. But it’s really hard to manage this much turnover.
So, what to do?
I talked to my boss this afternoon and we discussed this quite a bit. Of my five remaining direct reports (probably soon to be four) what would they do?
- EE#1 wants a different job. Working on that with him.
- EE#2 I think would leave to work for the government
- EE#3 I don’t know.
- EE#4 (Replacing the guy who just left) I don’t know very well yet
- EE#5 halfway out the door
EE#3 is tough because I feel like I took an educated chance on hiring her. She was one of those that I hired last January. She had done most of the things we needed for the position, but had never been a project manager before and had to put everything together. But I thought she was prepared for the challenge and it would be the next logical spot for her. So I hired her. She’s done well and has performed well. So now that she has a year of experience, does she want to take it someplace else or is she happy to keep working here and progressing and growing here?
Is there an answer? Is there a way to anticipate and plan for employees leaving? Yes, I’m working with EE#1 and that one is planned, but the two people that have left since September were complete surprises to me. Do I need to change my thinking that the entire team is going to turn over every year or two? What would I do if someone wanted to hire me away?
And I think that might be the really hard part. Everyone has their own ideas and no one shares them with anyone else. If I ask one of my people if they like their job and are planning on staying for another year, of course they will say yes, even if they had an interview with someone else that morning.
Maybe the people that have left so far believe that they left for a greater opportunity; more money or advancement or better benefits or closing to home. Something. I hope they did. I guess I just need to figure out how to keep people engaged as long as possible and have a contingency plan in place for when people leave. I guess I need to make this a higher priority on the strategic part of my job and pay more attention to it. I have a feeling I’ll spend much more time on this issue in the upcoming months.