What Should You Do When a Top Performer Tries to Leave?

Employees coming and going is a fact of running a business, but when one of our top performers tells us they’re moving on, we tend to go to a place of panic and incredulity. We ask why and what we can do to make them stay.

But is this really the best way to handle it? See what our expert coaches have to say about what you should do when a top performer tries to leave.

Why Find Out Why

There’s one major theme that permeates through the answer to this question. That’s to find out why your top talent is seeking greener pastures. How you go about doing so, though, is where most of us need guidance. We’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t involve begging said employee to give the company a second chance.

It may have struck a chord with you that this particular person wants to leave after many years, a seemingly stellar cultural fit, being someone you relied on, etc. But the purpose of finding out why this person’s moving on goes far beyond this one individual. Your job is to find out why they’re leaving, not for them, but to benefit future workers and your organization as a whole.

Make Their Exit Interview Count

Exit interviews are the classic stage for finding out why an employee is leaving the company. When done correctly, they can be immensely helpful for charting improvements to the company’s current standards and structures. But all too often, exit interviews are treated more like an annoying formality instead of being taken seriously.

To derive valuable feedback from this employee’s exit interview, the interviewer needs to actively listen to the interviewee without pressuring them. Trying to convince an employee to stay is one of the easiest ways to put them in an uncomfortable situation and often won’t warrant truthful answers to your questions.

Make Sure That They Leave on Good Terms

This person worked well on your team and made great strides for your organization, so the last thing you want to do is spoil the relationship on their way out. They might come back (though don’t verbalize this in the form of a desperate plea!) or have the opportunity to say something about your company in the future. No matter where they’re headed next, keeping things positive is the best way for the company and former employee to move forward.

Provide Team- and Company-Level Support

You may feel the need to think twice about time-off requests from employees in the coming weeks and huddle the rest of the department in an effort to prevent an influx of departures. Don’t give in to this urge. Instead, use this opportunity to evaluate the overall work environment and provide team members with the resources they may need to adjust to role changes after your top performer leaves.

From a wider, company-level view, you want to make sure that there’s a strong system set up for getting regular feedback from employees. A top employee leaving is a great time to evaluate how it’s working. Is feedback not only accepted but encouraged? Not all suggestions have to be taken, but all of them should be followed up on. What is the process for doing so?

Honing Your Company’s Next Top Performers

Companies in transition may call on midlevel managers to step into executive level roles. Hiring from within rather than from outside the company has a long list of benefits, but getting these rising leaders the training and tools they need to excel in their new position is crucial.

Interested in learning more about Arden’s group training sessions for up-and-coming execs? Head to our Arden Leadership Academy page to find out about how our proven programs work toward benefitting both the individual and your organization.