Are Your Key Employees a Flight Risk?

For the past several years I’ve been trying to alert leaders to an impending existential threat to their organizations. I no longer feel the need to do that because it’s no longer impending. The danger is upon us and if you still don’t know what it is then frankly there is little long-term hope for your organization. 

 

Hopefully you’re at least in the group who has the feeling that it’s harder to find people than it used to be…what you need to know is that it’s not just a feeling, it’s a very serious threat to the very existence of your business or organization.

 

The threat I’m talking about of course is the significant shrinking of the available workforce. Upwards of 10,000 Baby Boomers a day reach retirement age and they are being replaced by a much much smaller number of millennials. Even with the Centennials, iGen, Generation Z or whatever you want to call them joining the workforce very soon it won’t be enough to replace all the retiring boomers. 

 

With all due respect (if they still deserve respect) to the politicians who are claiming credit for the near historic low unemployment rate in the United States it has little or nothing to do with their efforts. It’s all about demographics.

 

The math is simply and it does not lie. 

 

One of the worst mistakes a leader can make today is to assume that their key people are not vulnerable to offers from other organizations simply because they provide a fair wage and a good work environment. 

 

Everybody, I repeat everybody, wants something and if you’re not working diligently to provide your people what they want then rest assured some other organization will. 

 

I could go through a long list of what your people might want but “might” doesn’t get it done. You need to know precisely what each of your people want and you need to know it before they are offered it by someone else. 

 

That’s why I’m such a proponent of “stay interviews.” Conducting an exit interview to discover why you’re people are leaving is of little use when compared to conducting a “stay interview” to determine how you can keep them. 

 

Sometimes when asked in a “stay interview” your people may say that “everything is fine” or that they don’t really know what they want. If that’s the case then it’s your job as a leader to help them discover what it is that they want, what it is that will help them stay motivated to remain a part of your organization. Then it’s your job as a leader to deliver it to them if it’s at all possible.

 

I absolutely promise you that if you don’t do that someone else eventually will and it’s getting more likely that it will be sooner rather than later.

 

The number of small businesses closing their doors or hanging on by a thread due to lack of an available workforce is beginning to grow. It is already spreading to larger organizations. If you’re in business then you’re in the people business. If you’re in the people business then you’re going to need to fight for your piece of a shrinking workforce. 

 

The fight begins by not losing the people you currently have. 

 

I truly do not have the vocabulary or writing skills to convey how serious an issue this is becoming for all businesses and organizations. The demographics are just crystal clear!

 

There are a limited number of larger companies who had the vision and forethought to get out in front of this threat and develop programs to retain their people and even recruit new ones. While that’s good for them it makes the situation even more critical for those organizations behind the curve. 

 

The answer to the question that makes up the title of this post is YES! Your key employees are a flight risk. Even if they are not looking to leave there is another organization out there who will try to entice them to do just that. You need to covet them as much or more than the organizations that don’t have them….yet.


Oh, one more thing before we close this out…. if you have an employee who isn’t key to your organization then what the heck are they doing working for you?

What Exit Interviews Miss

ExitLet’s begin with full disclosure on my part; I’ve never been on either side of an exit interview. I’ve had very few jobs so there has been little opportunity for me to provide my own feedback and I’ve never had anyone who worked for me quit. I have never in my life sat on either side of an exit interview desk.

But I’ve seen the results of many exit interviews and virtually every single one of them had the same thing in common; they said, if the words of the departing employee, why they were leaving.

Most companies do not know the reasons why employees stay or the actual reasons why they leave. They sort of attempt to figure out the later with an exit interview but exit interviews almost never differentiate between factors that make the new job attractive to the departing employee, and the reasons why the employee was prompted to consider leaving his or her current job in the first place.

For example, many employees report “better compensation” as one of their main reasons for leaving. Research revealed that these same employees were not, in fact, originally unhappy with their compensation. Instead, other reasons caused them to consider leaving their current job, such as lack of advancement opportunities or a feeling of being taken for granted.

Because of this situation, information from exit interviews often fail to reveal the actual causes of a company’s key employees.

The job market continues to pick up around the U.S. and companies can lose employees even when the employee isn’t looking to change jobs. If you’re not yet aware of this then consider this post a wake-up call – you’re best employees either are or soon will be recruited by other companies.

Most of your key employees will turn down recruiters right up until the one time that they don’t. What causes the change that makes someone act on a recruiter’s call at a particular point in time? That’s what you had better be searching for in your next exit interview.

Something changed, something in their work situation deteriorated to the point that they were vulnerable to an offer from another company. If you don’t know what deteriorated then you will not be able to fix it. If you do not fix it then it will happen again. When it happens again you will lose another key employee.

It’s a pretty darn good time to be looking for work, it’s so good that your employees can find another job when they are not even looking for one. It’s a terrible time to have issues in your organization that would give your best employees a reason to leave because they now have ample opportunity to leave.

The answers you need to keep your top performers can come from asking the right questions in an exit interview. Instead of asking only “why are you leaving?” perhaps try asking “what could have made you stay?”

You may not like the answers but if use the information to build a stronger organization you most certainly will like the end result.