People are going to leave your firm. It’s a natural fact of life. What do you do when it’s someone whom you want to keep who has handed in their resignation?
Currently, I’m working with a number of senior candidates who are either completely disenfranchised with their firm or are on the path to being so. After 5, 7, 10 years employment, what causes this? Why would someone who you’ve taken under your wing, that you mentored and raised, want to suddenly leave?
There are reasons that are out of your control. Situations that arise that you can do little about. These would include moving away or a career change. There are more pressing issues that fester grow like a parasite and push them to the edge.
At the crux of it, it comes down to being valued. Someone who is valued is likely to weather the tough times and stay for the long term. Being valued deeply resonates with us and if we aren’t feeling the love, we’ll seek it elsewhere. What that looks like varies and means something different to everyone.
Here are the three main reasons that people don’t feel valued and leave along with what we’ve seen work to effectively retain them.
Working with senior candidates, probably the biggest step they are looking to take in their career is ascending to Partnership. There are a lot of people who believe that they are ready to take the next and they may or may not be. This is huge for them and you. They believe they are winning the work and generating the fees to achieve Partnership. In some instances, there are Senior Managers and Directors who are winning more work than the Partners they report to but they feel as they aren’t good enough to be offered that position.
I will be the first person to agree that not everyone is deserving of a Partner position within your firm. For those who are, why are we making them jump through hoops? We’re dealing with highly driven people who have worked diligently chasing this carrot. When they are at the finish line, why do firms change the goal posts?
What we have seen work in retaining these people is frankly communication. The covers three main areas:
a. Expectations and targets (what needs to be achieved in relation to metrics)
b. Behaviours being promoted (what values need to be displayed and any feedback on internal and external communication)
c. Administrative requirements (funding, valuation, Partner votes etc)
If they didn’t achieve any of those or there was a particular reason they weren’t eligible for Partnership last year, explain this to them. Take them for a coffee and walk through what they see and where you envision them going. A simple “I don’t know” doesn’t cut it – and it’s crazy how frequently that’s the response. The same applies to more junior staff looking to be promoted.
Following on from the last point, time is a big factor when people are starting to feel undervalued or unloved. We are all on the clock. Looking at LinkedIn, there’s post after post informing us that we only have 86,400 seconds in a day etc etc.
Working in a professional services environment, we understand the importance of time. There simply isn’t enough in the day. Clients want this, staff need that, something-something need to sort out the back office of the business etc. There are factors pulling left, right, and centre.
What we’ve seen work in these situations is, funnily enough, communication. The simple act of taking 15 minutes out to see how things are goes a long way. Grabbing a coffee in the morning together and sitting down for 10-15 minutes and offering them some feedback on how their last big engagement went, or how they tackled that really tough client, or how they missed out on that proposal but gave it a red hot go that you loved – all this goes a long way.
Again, people want to feel valued and loved. Remember that time that you left the office early, picked up the kids from school, and spent the afternoon with them? Imagine if you spent 10 minutes with your top performers.
The money question. How often do we hear employers say that it’s all about the dollars? People just want to be paid more. Actually, that’s contrary to what we see. It’s usually about a lot more than the pay packet. We’ve seen people take serious haircuts to move into a role that motivates them.
When it comes to money, people want to feel valued. If there’s a discrepancy between them and another person who is at the same level, it needs to be understood why. We recently worked with a Senior Accountant earning $58,xxx who discovered that one of his colleagues, with the same amount of experience, was on $79,xxx. He tried to speak with management and they ‘were too busy’.
Again, communication works to retain these people. We’ve found in these instances, explaining what causes these discrepancies goes a long way. Frankly, if Person A is doing the same role as Person B, there shouldn’t be a discrepancy but I’ll save that for another time. Speak with them about what they need to do to receive a greater pay rise next year. Explain those metrics and work with them throughout the year to help them get there.
As much as money matters, people aren’t necessarily expecting the world. They’re expecting what they feel they deserve for the contribution they’ve made.
Good people are hard to find. Then when they come in, you need to train them and ensure that they fit culturally, and assimilate well. You have great people in your team. They adore the work that you do. They appreciate that it’s a two-way street. They understand that they can see you when they need to. Keep the lines of communication open and you should retain them. Once they start feeling undervalued, used, and unloved, it’s only a matter of time.