My parents and grandparents’ generation used the term ‘A Job for Life’ with abundance, it was the norm throughout their working lives, yet today it is a concept seldom mentioned. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average Canadian changes jobs 10-15 times during their lifetime, which equates to an average tenure of 4.2 years in any one role over the course of a working lifespan, and recent trends show the longevity between employer is on the decline!

As an employer, one of the ‘modern day’ threats to your business is losing a valued team member and the dilemmas it can create internally. First thoughts are often compounded by the need to seek out a ‘quick solution’, apply a band aid and minimize disruption to the company as fast as possible. ‘The modern world is full of disruptors and this is one that we don’t need right now’ is a commonly held belief!!

In essence, this is actually a great opportunity to pause, examine, soul search and self-critique, it’s not a moment to simply capitulate. This situation requires strong and thoughtful leadership; anything less could backfire with disastrous consequences and set impossible precedents for the business in the future.

This is the time to ask the tough questions not just of yourself as the manager but also of your firm.

  • Why has this person decided to leave, what are the real motivations: financial? lack of career progression or prospects? conflict with colleagues or management?
  • How has my / our management style impacted this member of staff, is it time that we examined our own processes and responses?
  • Have we listened to this member of our team? Are their reasons for leaving justified?
  • Have we delivered on our promises to this person? Have we failed them in one way or another?
  • How do we feel about this person’s imminent departure, do we truly care about and need this person?
  • How will the vacancy left behind impact the business, and do we need to fill this role quickly?
  • What can we do to prevent this happening in the future?

Historically, the desire to improve remuneration has always been one of the prime motivators for staff to look for career progression outside of their current employer. Feeling that you have stalled in your current role with limited opportunities to climb the corporate ladder, leading to limited prospects for financial improvement, have demotivated even the most driven team members over time. However, in the modern working environment, younger generations seek out not just financial and hierarchical rewards but also other highly coined terms we hear every day like ‘work / life balance’, ‘flexible working arrangements’, ‘company benefits’, not just healthcare plans or gym memberships but incentive schemes and structures to makes their lives feel more complete. These are all things that need to be examined internally to minimize the likelihood of people leaving in the first place, but if faced with this scenario, the time to act is now.

The considerations to make as an employer are several:

  • Do we consider the person’s reasons for leaving to be fair and part of a bigger picture problem internally that we need to address?
  • Is this a ‘knee jerk reaction’?
  • Would a counteroffer be a quick fix or a permanent solution?
  • As a firm, are we setting a precedent here?
  • What will the impact be on the rest of the team?  Will this affect morale?
  • Can we honestly say we can forgive this team member for wanting to leave?

Whatever the answers to these questions, this is a crucial time, not just in the life of your departing employee, but in the evolution of your management style and the reputation and integrity of your firm as an employer. Balancing the need to resolve this problem as quickly as possible with maintaining the stability and professionalism of your business are moments when you, as the employer, discover who you really are.

The course you set now will define the future of your business; clarity and affirmative action speak volumes about how you choose to define yourself.

James Bell
James Bell
James Bell, Partner, has over 17 years of recruitment experience. With extensive expertise in the financial sector, he has helped to build the teams of Fortune 500 companies and leading institutions within the global financial markets.