Attrition – How bad can it be?

As a start-up, how do you deal with staff attrition? I thought I didn’t have to write about this for a good few years but there you go. A few thoughts on how we must let go and build a relationship even after the contractual connection has ended.

It was just another normal week in early May but it turned out to be quite a roller-coaster as one of our key member of staff resigned, taking us completely by surprise. When there are hundreds of thousands of employees, this perhaps wouldn’t matter much but when there are just a handful of people, particularly when we went to great lengths to find them, it takes a while to realise what had just hit you.

We care deeply for our staff and we do everything we can to meet their needs; intellectually and emotionally. I guess attrition is inevitable regardless of how important the organisation feels a member of staff is or vice versa. Looking on the brighter side, however, we hope the change is for the better, for the both of us, and we wish only the very best for our dear staff member.

If you are in a similar situation, here are a few tips, from our own experience, to handle it (in no particular order and I don’t claim to be an expert in anthropology by the way).

  • When a decision is made, it is made. Don’t talk people out of their decision.  They have made it weighing all their options and it must be respected. Of course it would be nice if people discuss their issues beforehand to straighten things out; it’s alright if they don’t.
  • Try to understand the reasons but don’t be defensive. The reasons could set you thinking of how to improve things for your other staff and new members coming on board.
  • Be supportive of their next move. This is not easy as you have to ensure that the company’s interests are protected before their own. Some are responsible to understand but others aren’t as co-operative. Either way, try to find a middle ground with regards to relieving arrangements.
  • Make the best use of the remaining period to complete all pending tasks and remain fully engaged with the handover. Work closely with the member of staff and ensure that they leave with the same passion and energy as they did when they walked in.
  • Ensure that your intellectual property is protected. As people take away great body of knowledge, it is important to ensure that everything that was conceived and developed and those remaining to be developed remains within the company.
  • Departures are often treated with trepidation. Don’t commit this mistake. Even though they are moving on, they are still part of the family.
  • Foster partnerships. It might even be a good opportunity (if there are sufficient synergies) to build a relationship with their new employer to build new partnerships.
  • Leave the door open. If things don’t work out, they can always come back (hopefully with greater knowledge and experience).
  • Remain friends forever. After all, it’s not the end of the world.
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