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The war for top talent will only continue to intensify. If you have good people on your team, your head is stuck in the sand if you think they will not be contacted by recruiters representing your competition. What signs can you look for – and how should you respond when a competitor is wooing your best performers?

Why People Leave

It is true: People do not quit their jobs; they quit their bosses. Really, though, they are one and the same. The factors that drive your best employees away generally parallel complaints about company management. Be alert for these negative patterns:

  • Overworking people: It is tempting to overwork leading performers. The irony is that by doing so, you’ll make them feel as though they are being punished for doing good work. To make matters worse, it becomes unproductive. According to Stanford research, productivity per hour falls sharply when a person’s workweek exceeds 50 hours. It drops so dramatically after 55 hours that you get absolutely nothing out of a person working more.
  • Failing to recognize people: Everyone appreciates recognition, especially top performers who tend to be intrinsically motivated. Make sure your managers communicate with their employees to find out what makes them feel good and then reward them for a job well done.
  • Not showing empathy: The smartest companies are those whose managers balance being professional with being human. This means celebrating employee successes and empathizing with those who are experiencing hard times. Companies that fail to care will surely have high turnover rates.
  • Making the wrong hiring and promotion choices: The best employees want to work with like-minded colleagues. Hiring the wrong talent is a major demotivating factor for those who must work alongside them. Promoting the wrong people is even worse. It is counter-productive which actually drives people away.

Watch for the Symptoms

Be alert for these indicators that an employee may be considering a move to a new company:

  • It is their work anniversary. Research has shown that employees are more likely to resign at this time. Annual reviews, which tend to coincide with these dates, tend to be times of career reflection.
  • Trigger events occur. These may include an employee being turned down for a promotion or partnership or having a pet project put on hold. Such occurrences may make other options suddenly more attractive. Another such indicator is an employee who suddenly starts requesting to attend more conferences – where they will be visible within their industry.
  • The gossip mill is churning. Pay attention to office gossip. Chances are good that an employee has confided in someone that they are entertaining other offers.

Steps to Take

A certain amount of turnover is inevitable. That being said, you can take steps to minimize losing you’re A-level team members. These include:

  • Be proactive. If you learn that a valuable contributor is considering leaving, have a frank conversation with them. Find out what you need to do to improve that person’s work life and convince them to stay. Ask them what is wrong. Are there any changes you could make that would convince them to reconsider?
  • Pay attention and avoid mutiny. When a team member leaves for a competitor, an immediate concern is whether they will take others with them. This is a very valid concern. Start with their team members and friends. Find out what they need to stay and then do your best to deliver. Make sure these employees know how much you value their contributions.

Retention is just as critical as recruitment when it comes to building your industry-leading team. The executive recruiters at BrainWorks can help ensure that you not only source and land the best talent, but keep them in your court. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more about our executive recruiting services.


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