Losing members of your team is bound to happen; it’s a fact of life that cannot be completely prevented. But as with anything for small businesses, the stakes are higher. The departure of one member of a team of ten will be felt much more than one member of a hundred. Ensuring you are prepared for this eventuality is essential.
Here are a few ways I have seen small businesses successfully approach this issue.
Communication, communication, communication
The best thing a small business can do to protect itself against the loss of a team member is to ensure excellent communication and well-integrated teamwork. Creating an environment that promotes teamwork will mean that all roles in your company are transparent to all. This is critical – there shouldn’t be a role that can’t be picked up by someone else.
Always try to ensure each senior employee has junior staff who work closely with them. But if that’s not feasible, as a manager ensure you know the role that person played – that way, if they leave, you mitigate the possibility of your entire company coming to a halt while you’re left in the lurch.
Avoid over-relying on one person
Avoiding over-reliance on one individual helps small businesses avoid making knee-jerk hires. For instance, if you’re panicked about someone leaving you may well recruit quickly, but whilst filling a vacancy in a timely manner is preferred, it should not come at the price of ensuring that you’re hiring the right person for your business.
The team dynamics within a small business are vital and the wrong hire can have a profound effect on your company.
Throwing money at a problem will not solve it
Although it may seem like a quick-fix, in the long-term throwing money at an issue won’t work out. Research has shown that 90 per cent of employees who accept a counter-offer move after six months. Yes, it may work ten per cent of the time, but the fundamental reason for them wanting to resign will most likely still exist. This is where communication and engagement come into play. Creating an integrated and positive company culture that people don’t want to leave will help to nurture your talent and avoid unnecessary losses.
Don't get complacent
We tell candidates to constantly refresh their CVs, even when they're not looking. Similar advice applies to small businesses. Keep interviewing and meeting with potential candidates – even when you’re not actively searching for new employees. It will not only ensure you’re aware of the market and can benchmark the latest skills, it also establishes relationships with quality candidates. Don’t think just because you think your team is safe and no one has left yet, that they never will. Be prepared and avoid complacency.
Learn from previous exits to improve your business
Although an upsetting and stressful moment, a key player leaving your company can, in fact, be a real learning curve for companies. It’s a chance to apply what you’ve learnt from previous exits to developing your business. For example, if someone left because they felt there wasn’t enough training, it’s your job to pay attention and do something about it. Rather than taking it personally, look at the loss pragmatically to ensure it doesn’t happen again for the same reason.