Is it worth investing in your people when they can move on?

Relationship building seems to be a buzz word. What does it mean and how far do you invest before you expect a return?  Most often I find people build a relationship when they want to sell something or create a leveraging point. But underlying this is the human need to be valued. When a relationship touches on this, there is potential for exponential loyalty and inspiration. So where is the point investment in relationship is “worth it?”

Excellent companies invest in their people

I know of a successful company excelling in their niche, where the knowledge required takes many years for their people to become really valuable. They invest heavily in their people for these years, including paying for Masters and Ph.D studies, knowing that their young talent will often move on to larger corporations for broader career exposure.  This creates a real dilemma for the business as their investment and many year’s IP walks out the door.

So do they axe the financial support of these expensive studies?

The answer lies in the bigger picture.

How you handle employee exit

One must remember that hiring-exiting is part of the career cycle.  A good employee may move on to gain the broad experience and extra training that comes with working for a large corporation. The wise executive/manager will recognize this potential for returning with that greater wealth after some years. They would be in the winning position afterall.

But how to handle the risk of loss today?

The employee’s exit is the strategic opportunity. The employee is very impressionable at this point, as at every point of disturbance (change). This is the management’s opportunity to leave a strong positive impression and differentiate their company, making it attractive to return later.

Celebrate their exit, don’t let them go quietly!

  • Demonstrating care and forethought (celebrate their contribution and how far they’ve come)
  • Send them off with the company’s best wishes (be personal!)
  • Publicly acknowledge the company’s proactive contribution to their development and success (get some mileage out of it)

DO Keep in contact, be generous, allow your valuable employee the space to experience, follow her (his)  dreams, even to make a mistake, farewell with a clear “open return” invitation. Openly celebrate their dreams, desire for challenge, and vision for their future.

DON’T be sour about them leaving (does it burn your ego?).

Your company needs Advocates

Watch this generous spirit infect your team – and the return in trust, energy, commitment, loyalty among the remaining team. It also creates goodwill in the marketplace as the appreciated ex-employee talks about your company with confidence and admiration. 

The way your satisfied ex-employee talks about your company could become your competitive advantage and smart recruiting strategy – it’s free marketing to other in-demand specialists.

CLEARLY leave the door open, paint the picture of being welcomed back and bringing their new skills and experience to opportunity in your company at a different level. If they return, you will get back all the experience gained from your competitor.

Stay in touch!

This is the hard part – easier to forget – but don’t dare. People want to know you CARE; and high achievers particularly need to know they are VALUED. When you don’t earn from them but still care, the impact is strong and lasting.

In my life in Direct Sales, we called this generous sharing, “abundance mentality”. Wherever possible, when my leaders moved on I celebrated their dreams, recognized their contribution, and presented them with a gift. I kept in contact where possible, maintained relationship with an occasional call, to keep that contact going. Remember, burnt bridges cannot be crossed.

This attitude is counter-intuitive – but it always pays.