We were preparing to get our dogs in the car for a walk. They had followed us out, but when I opened the door, one of those fuzzy knuckleheads was nowhere to be seen. One second she was there and the next second she was gone. We finally found her, but in the interim we experienced a good bit of surprise, frustration, and (to be honest) anger.

If you have ever had a highly valued employee leave suddenly, maybe you have experienced some of those feelings too. It can be a shock and a disappointment. But what to do? (Especially since leashes are not an option.) Below are a couple “must do’s” if you do not want to experience that kind of situation (or at least experience that situation less than your competition).

Proactively ask about fulfillment. We have all seen those situations (after notice has been given), the question being asked “Is there anything we can do to change your mind?” How often does that make a difference? On rare occasions that question might make a difference, but most of the time it is too little too late. That is a reactive approach. The proactive approach is to be asking about fulfillment on a disciplined and regular basis.

Don’t be generic. One size does not fit all when it comes to what is important to a person in a job. After the common interest of money is met, what fulfills people gets wildly divergent. Do you know what is important to your key people and in what order of importance? Do the supervisors of your key talent know? Get granular with your employees and know what is truly important for them as an individual. (And DON’T get caught up in trying to manage individuals as some big monolithic block like a generation.)

Focus the “mostest on your bestest.” This takes great discipline from leaders. It is very easy to get caught up in dealing with the squeaky wheels and just assume that if things are quiet with our best people that things will remain great. Don’t be distracted. Put your time, attention, and money into those that can grow and contribute and be discerning about investments in those that may not.

Ensure that your supervisors are attractive leaders. If true that people tend to leave managers and not their companies, then it makes an awful lot of sense to make sure supervisors can display excellent people development skills and are not doing things that are causing disengagement. Seek input on these leaders regularly and proactively.

If a leader truly believes that people are a company’s most important asset (and don’t just say it as another corporate platitude), then they should act like it. Every day, measures are taken to protect a company’s buildings and equipment proactively. The same level of care and seriousness should be taken with talent too.

[Want more thoughts on how to develop and retain your very best people? Contact me to schedule a complimentary consultation for your specific circumstances.]