People leave teams unexpectedly. It causes disruption. Projects are impacted, culture is impacted. You may lose a unique perspective, valuable skillset, and contextual knowledge that is difficult to rebuild.
Managers are blind-sided and scramble to figure out how to fill the gap in the team, understand why someone left, why they didn’t see it coming, and how they can minimize turn-over in the future.
People avoid discussing leaving with their managers. They don’t view you as being on their side and fear for their current job security. This problem is two-fold. Lack of trust and lack of support.
Why do people leave?
There is a lot of reasons, the one I hear most is because of a bad manager, closely followed by a lack of professional growth.
- Unsupportive manager’s
- Lack of professional growth
- Feeling undervalued
- Lack of leadership and advocacy
- They didn’t find what they expected on your team
- They feel the team has lost its way, there is no vision or clear direction
- Their experience didn’t match the pitch—the reasons they joined in the first place.
Plan for people to outgrow your team.
The solution is building more supportive relationships from the start. Turn-over is expected. If you’ve done your job as a manager people will grow out of their existing position. They will have mastered the role and move on when there is no room left to grow.
Accept this. Accepting this as a fact the day they join your team means you can position yourself as a supportive coach. Your goal is to help them move on as quickly as possible. To make them a high performer in as short a period of time as possible.
Be honest and supportive.
Understand where they want to be and show them you aren’t afraid of them moving to another department or company. Talk about the day they’ve grown beyond the role you’ve hired them for on day one. Having the ‘leaving the team conversation’ early makes other conversations feel small in comparison. You’ll be able to tackle challenges while they are on your team more effectively because you’ll feel like you’re on the same team. They’ll be fully engaged to the very last second. Recognize that the relationship won’t last forever, that careers aren’t on the line, and that you’re there to support each other.
This conversation will give you insights about your team member, what inspires them, what they fear, where they want to grow, and what they’ll need from you to get there. It lets you focus on defining what a meaningful relationship will look like while you work together.
Be a good coach.
If you believe in the value of employee retention then it’s important that you are pro-active about understanding how this person's vision for themselves can fit within your team and organization. You can help them make career moves internally that will benefit the organization and the individuals in it.
When you have created a high-trust, high-support, relationship with your reports you can talk, plan, and make decisions pro-actively about the inevitable time when your report moves on to their next adventure.