By Angela Rose for BioSpace.com
You arrive at the office—already stressed by your morning commute and the ever-growing to-do list you’ve been composing in your head—and before you can even respond to the first urgent email waiting in your inbox, one of your key employees asks if you “have a moment to speak in private.” As he or she closes the door, your stomach sinks. You just know you’re going to get a resignation.
Jamie Stacy is Vice President and Science Product Leader at Kelly Services, a global supplier of workforce solutions, and she understands how you feel. With a background in talent acquisition, staffing and recruiting, she’s dealt with her share of turnover. While it’s a natural part of every manager’s job—no one stays with the same employer forever, after all—it’s especially difficult when the employee you’re losing is a key player on your team.
“If an employee is key to your organization, it is for a reason,” she recently told BioSpace. “He or she is great at the job, inspires others, has the qualities of a great leader, or any and all of the above. When that type of person leaves an organization, it creates a void.”
Most departments—whether at biotech firms or pharmaceutical companies—cannot maintain optimal productivity levels when short staffed. “What the organization usually defaults to is finding a replacement,” says Stacy. But it’s important to consider the bigger picture as soon as possible. “Don’t forget about the impact an employee leaving can have on those around him or her,” she continues. “Seeing someone respected choose to leave an organization can be just enough of a nudge to cause others to leave as well.”
Fortunately, there are things you can do to smooth the transition for all involved—and maybe even come out a stronger team on the other side. Consider these five steps you must take the next time one of your key employees resigns.
1. Schedule an exit interview.
Immediately schedule a time to talk about the employee’s experience working for you and why he or she is leaving. Usually referred to as an exit interview, this type of structured discussion will provide insight you can later use to reduce the likelihood of losing more top performers. For example, if the employee is leaving for a job with better pay, you might want to take a look at the competitiveness of your company’s compensation package. Check out these must-ask exit interview questions.
2. Stay positive.
As the old saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining.” While the loss of this employee is going to affect your department’s productivity for a time, you now have the opportunity to find an even better team member—one with updated skills, a broader network of industry connections or even just a fresh perspective on the product or service your biopharma company provides. Focus on the possibilities, not on what you’ve lost.
3. Include your team in the process.
“While you are searching for that next key employee, make sure you step in and connect with those who worked with this one,” Stacey advises. “Talk with them often and about the plan forward. Keep them engaged by acknowledging the change, reinforcing the importance of their work and showing that you care.” Additionally, be upfront about why the employee is leaving. Rumors often undermine morale.
4. Don’t rely on a single recruitment channel.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that internal hires cost less and perform longer than external hires do. In fact, the data revealed that companies usually had to pay external hires 20 percent for the same job—and they were 21 percent more likely to leave of their own accord. If you cannot replace your key employee from within, consider asking for referrals, using an industry job board like BioSpace, and working with a staffing or recruiting service.
5. Maintain open lines of communication.
Make sure your team knows it is okay to come to you when they’re frustrated, discouraged or offered other opportunities. Encourage them to voice their questions and concerns. Ask them to let you know if they think another team member might be considering moving on. Addressing these small problems before they become larger is a simple way to retain more key employees.