What You Feared
You have just learned that the rumors are true.  Your star performer is planning to leave.  High performer attrition is the stuff of management nightmares.  You need to figure out how to handle the departure of top talent.

Leaders and coworkers rely on high performers to produce at an exceptionally high level and to inspire others.  How will you achieve team goals without them?

The First Step
Before you panic, you need to get more information about why they are leaving.  Meet with the employee to find out how far along they are in the plan to depart.  If they have already accepted another offer and the situation is irreversible, you can only be gracious and wish them well. 

Showing your anger or frustration will only make a bad situation worse.  Don’t burn bridges; many things come full circle, and you may meet this employee again.

What You Need to Uncover
Get together, one-on-one, in a relaxed setting to try to find out why they are leaving – and eventually what might cause them to stay.  What was missing in their job situation? Do you know what their career ambitions are?  Are they open to reconsidering?  If so, what would it take?

What You Can Offer
Explore what they would need to change their mind.  This is where you need to do your best to question sensitively, be open to possible criticism and listen carefully. 

  • Bad Boss
    Many employees leave because they are unhappy with their manager. Is there some way in which you have failed them? 

  • Better Opportunity
    Some leave for more opportunity. Were they given multiple chances to learn and grow? 

  • Money
    Others leave for more money. Is this something you can offer them?  Some require a better mix of benefits.  Don’t offer the moon but look at possible options. 

  • Work-Life Balance
    And there’s the question of work-life balance that is largely degraded by a high cost of living and lengthy commute. Be creative.  Could they work more often from home?  Could they be reassigned to other sites closer to where they live?

What Next
Let’s say that they are still determined to leave.  Now you need to investigate how this will affect you and others on the team.  Depending on what you learn, you may need to make some changes in order to retain the rest of the team. 

Meet with the group, ask for their feedback and discuss whatever changes you think are necessary.  The sooner you acknowledge the tough road ahead without your star, the sooner you and the team will design a path forward.

The Bottom Line
Some turnover is inevitable.  A manager’s job is to work hard to keep the high performers engaged and challenged.  Are you doing all you can to retain your top talent?

To learn more about how to retain top talent so you don’t need to handle the departure of top talent, download 2 Steps Every CHRO Should Take to Retain Top Performers

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