Why it's OK for Your Employees to Leave Sometimes

Posted by: Alisha Sedor, Founder

This week, I wanted to share a bit of a think piece on company culture and address the idea of employees leaving your company to head to a new venture. This process is often wrought with secrecy and ultimately resentment on the part of both the employee and their manager. Members of your team might be approaching burnout and starting to look around for new opportunities, interviewing after hours or taking a "long lunch" or "doctor's appointment," and fixing up their resume on their office laptop. It's such a common occurrence, and no one feels good about transitions that happen this way.

We talk a lot about employee turnover, and that is a real cost that all companies should be paying attention to. Stay tuned for a post about that down the line. However, what I'm talking about is why you should create a culture that makes  it ok to move on when you’re ready. In other words, embracing the idea that people might outgrow a role, and that their next role might not be with you.

There are benefits to having frank and transparent conversations with employees about fit of a role throughout their tenure, encouraging them to move on when it’s time and, I would argue, even supporting them in doing so. Perhaps you won’t go so far as to pay people to quit a la Zappos, but utilizing your networks and coaching skills to help people move out into a role that’s right for them will pay you dividends in the long run.

You're creating an amazing alumni network

At the founder level, you can see this evidenced by the NextGen Startup Map. Great companies breed people who create more great companies. If you support your employees through a transition out, they'll be thrilled to keep in touch, and perhaps even use you as a resource for questions they have in their new venture.

They then become people you can tap when you're hiring in the future - either for themselves after they've gone and learned a whole bunch at their new job, or for referrals from their networks. This also lends itself to knowledge sharing across companies with people you trust - if your former employee is working on a similar team at a new company, you gain access to their insights and information about tools and processes so they everyone's not reinventing the wheel all the time. Finally, if you have former employees that head off to freelance or start their own venture, they become potential future business partners who already know you and the way you work.

Mitigating disengagement

The cost of disengaged employees has been illustrated by multiple studies in recent years. One huge way to overcome this is to let your team know you're invested in their growth, even if that growth won't necessarily be with you. By being supportive of employees who are seeking new ventures, you avoid all of the weird sneaking around mentioned at the top. Rather than blowing off their work to apply to jobs while on the job, they'll be more likely to do that on their own time but let you know when they need to step out for an interview or phone screen.

Additionally, this is one of the strongest ways to build rapport with your direct reports (or your reports' reports) because they know you care about them as human beings, not just for the output they provide in their job. It builds trust because you're not making false promises about jobs at your company that might not materialize at the right time (even for your highest performing employees). If you purposefully design an "up, over, or out" path with them, they can design their own growth and be transparent with you about what they want and on what timeline. It's invaluable to have that visibility into your personnel.

Increases your visibility as an awesome employer

Lastly, if you're constantly turning out high quality people to other companies, that makes your team a really appealing place to be. Former employees who leave in a good place are more likely to write positive reviews on sites like Glassdoor, encouraging new applicants to view your company favorably. Other, similar companies will be familiar with your team, broadening your potential employee pool. Looping back to the alumni network, you'll have lots of promoters out in the world talking about how supportive your company is in growing people in their careers. By sharing talent across organizations, you open up pipelines of potentially great hires.

To conclude, we can't forget about the cost of employee turnover, and of course you want to keep people for a long time in a happy and engaged way. However, ignoring the reality that sometimes people need to move on can prevent you from having healthy, productive conversations with your team. Recognizing the advantages of a culture where moving on is ok can help set you and your team up for success.

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