Losing Great People Is Not An Option

It can take an exhaustive amount of time to recruit, complete the interview process and properly train new associates. It should not be easy in the slightest to let them go. Once associates are a part of your team, you are, whether you like it or not, financially and emotionally invested in their future. So, you should do your utmost to ensure that this investment doesn’t slip away.

First, let’s look at the ‘emotional’ investment:

  • Excellent leaders define their success by how many people they have helped to succeed. If you are one of those leaders and you fail at that task, it is definitely emotional for you.
  • You took your time looking at all the applicants and you chose what you deemed to be the best of the best. You took a leap of faith that they would be one of the greats. As an old boss of mine was fond of saying, “You chose to co-sign their note,” meaning you put yourself on the line for them. How could that not be anything but an emotional investment?
  • If you lose an associate to a better opportunity – one that you could not provide – it is still emotional for you. You may be regretful of the loss, but an excellent leader will always find happiness in knowing that one of his or her associates has found success even if it is with another organization.

Then there are the ‘total financial costs’ of losing a great associate:

  • Cost of hiring (advertising, interviewing, screening and selecting)
  • Cost of onboarding (training, time invested by management)
  • Cost of ongoing training (good organizations invest a minimum of 10-20% of an associate’s salary in training-over the first three years in a role)
  • Lost productivity (based on the exact position, it may take six months to a year to reach the productivity of an existing associate)
  • Lost engagement (other associates who witness high turnover may disengage and not work as effectively or bring forward that next great idea to the rest of the team)
  • Guest service errors (new associates take longer and are less adept at solving problems)
  • Cultural impact (whenever someone leaves others ask “why?”)  They may start to feel that the culture of the company is deteriorating.

Most importantly of all, you have to remember that people are an ‘appreciating asset’. The longer they stay with you, the more productive they become. They have learned the systems and the organization; they have learned how to work and grow with your team.

To cite a personal example, a few years back we lost an associate to an excellent opportunity that our organization could not provide. She was hired as my administrative assistant, and during a performance management review she had shown a strong desire to learn all she could about human resources management. We designed a five-year plan for her to eventually move into the Director of HR position.

From intense training to certifications, we did not let one learning opportunity go by. And boy did she excel! She moved into the director position within three years and performed admirably for five more wonderful years.

Then the inevitable happened. A large hotel company offered to double her salary. Since there were no vice president positions available, all we could do was let her go. Emotional, yes, but I was also deeply proud of her. She now has not only traversed the United States to assist other hotels, but her travels have also taken her across the globe. She is financially, professionally and personally successful, and we remain friends to this day.

My point through this short story is to demonstrate how you should value each and every employee so they can realize their full potential, even if it means that they eventually leave your nurturing eye to seek another opportunity elsewhere. If you treat all associates with care and with mentorship in mind, then your investment will pay off tenfold.

So, hire slowly, onboard thoroughly and let them know daily that they matter. Think of it as the grave responsibility that you will attract and retain the great individuals who happen to make it past the starting gate – that is, the hiring process. These associates may leave you for an opportunity when there is no upward mobility available but, as with our Director of HR, we had five amazing years with her. Moreover, because she loved her role and was a part of the Newport Hospitality Group ‘family’, her departure was purely on good terms, so much so that she helped develop a succession plan so that a trainee that could follow in her footsteps with little or no down time.

(Article by Lizz Chambers, originally published in eHotelier on Friday, January 27, 2017)