Over the course of our careers we have more than likely heard that everyone is replaceable. On a basic level I am sure that it is a defense mechanism that entry-level manager’s use or simply arrogance. When you take a step back and look at the big picture, are great employees really replaceable?
First, make no mistake that you can always find someone to occupy a cubicle. This is especially true during our economic recovery where there are millions of skilled and educated candidates out there wanting to be able to work. The pent-up demand for work will often lead to a highly productive team member, at least in the beginning.
When you have a great employee on your staff, that employee holds value that cannot easily be replaced. Their understanding of the organization, product, systems and processes are often extensive. They tend to understand the “band-aids” that have been put in place as work arounds and the interdependencies they carry. They probably hold tight relationships with clients that have been nurtured over a number of years. They have experience with what has and has not worked for the organization over time. Most likely, one of the biggest values they bring is the camaraderie and influence they hold over their coworkers. The absence of those relationships and influence will have a great impact of the overall organizational culture.
Another impact of losing a great employee is the effect it has on the other employees. When a great employee leaves, this causes other employees to question why that person left, why you would let them leave, is there something wrong with this company that they aren’t aware of. Perhaps the most damaging question they may ask themselves “should I start looking for another job myself?” This thought process isn’t limited to the rest of your staff it is also similar to what your clients will think, just replace looking for another job with looking for another vendor. The cascading effect of losing a great employee is far reaching and goes well beyond what you can quantify.
When you take a step back it is easy to evaluate the costs of replacing a great employee. Perhaps the market rate has gone up or you want to hire up so the starting wage will be higher than your great employee. There is time and money invested in training just to get them up to full production. Never mind the years of time it will take for them to truly understand the nuances of your systems and processes and building relationships and influence. Keep these costs in mind when a great employee is asking for a reasonable increase in pay.
Not all reasons great employees leave are within anyone’s control. They could be moving or are undergoing a life-changing event. But when the opportunity to retain a great employee presents itself, you should do everything in your power to do so. On a basic level, show them appreciation, treat them with respect, and compensate them well. When it comes down to success, it isn’t your product, service or pricing that separates you from the competition it is your great employees who ultimately make the difference.
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