It happens. Your best database specialist decides to leave. Or the one service desk employee all your customers love. How do you respond? Are you happy for them? Or disappointed? How you respond makes all the difference for your success in managing and retaining talent in your organization.

We’ve all been through it. You managed to assemble a great team, have exciting projects lined up and everybody’s ready to make progress. This is the moment to reap the rewards. At that moment, one of your most talented people asks whether you have a minute. ‘I accepted another job offer,’ he says. Ouch. He was the one you had great plans for. The one who could outshine all your other team members. How do you respond? Are you angry? Frustrated? Or are you happy for them?

Positive talent management

At TOPdesk, we’re happy for that person. Sincerely happy. Not just for them, but also for their team. Why? First of all: your employee is probably leaving because they’re making a step in their career that’s important to them. They’re seizing an opportunity. One you would probably seize as well, if you were in their shoes.

It’s important you make your talent feel good about their last weeks in your team. Don’t try to push their leave date as far back as you can, so they can finish up some project or transfer their work. Work something out that works for both of you. When your employee leaves with a positive feeling, they will be more likely to recommend your organization, whether as an employer or supplier, to someone else.

In addition, your other team members will notice your positive and mature response to your employee’s decision to leave and will appreciate you more for it. If one of your team members ever considers switching jobs, it’s more likely they will discuss this openly with you.

A blow for your organization?

Of course, in the short term your employee leaving is highly inconvenient. Your team will have to do a bit more work, and you might have to postpone or cancel some plans you made. Which sucks. But in the long run, it’s not so bad that top employees leave every now and then. At least, it’s proof that you know how to recognize, recruit and develop talent. You’ve helped your talented employee flourish, advance their career and move on to the next challenge at another organization. That’s something to be proud of.

New opportunities for the rest of your staff

In the meantime, you managed to recruit other talented people. People who are still in your team. Sure, they may be less experienced than your employee who just left. But you know they’re good. An experienced team member leaving opens up new opportunities for other team members. Some people will be ready to take on responsibilities that your former employee had, providing them a more challenging and exciting job. They will get more room to grow, and they will be happy for the opportunity you gave them to develop their skills.

This is how it works: your talented employees push the boundaries of the what your organization does. They set new standards, either for technical quality or customer service. When they leave, their standards remain, challenging your current team members to meet those standards. And raise the bar further. That way, your organization pushes the growth of your talent – and the other way around.

Is retaining talent always a good thing?

There’s one final thought I would like to leave you with. Your employee who left? They probably left because they had some qualities that got them hired in the first place. Because they’re ambitious. Never satisfied with the status quo. Always looking for improvement. Do you work for an organization where hardly anyone leaves? That can mean two things. You either work for the most fantastic organization on earth, and there’s nowhere else to go from there. If so: congratulations, well done.

Are you not the best employer in the world? Then here’s a wake-up call. If no one ever leaves your organization, it’s very likely you’ve employed people that are really not that good. People who are content to come to the office every day, perform reasonably well and get paid to do so. People who don’t live up to their potential. People who don’t really like the work they do, or who know deep down they’re not very good at it.

If no one ever leaves your organization, it’s very likely you’ve employed people that are really not that good.

Growth or comfort?

What do you prefer? An organization where every now and then talented employees leave, creating room for other employees to grow and push the organization further? Or an organization where everyone stays glued to their office chairs without really excelling? Ask yourself this question the next time a talented employee comes to your desk and asks a minute of your time.

Further reading on service culture

Want more inspiration on how to improve your service culture? Read one of the following blogs:

Blog: Hiring and motivating the right kind of IT-staff
Blog: Creating your team: do you choose personality over skills?