By Clare Mullen

Sometimes good people leave... and thats ok!

I recently saw a LinkedIn post containing the sentence I’ve seen a million times over. “People leave bosses, not companies.” Or whatever variant of that is currently circulating. It’s posted time and time again, usually followed by comments congratulating the poster on their insight.

But it’s not a new comment, and it’s also not entirely true. Sometimes people do leave companies. And you know what? That’s ok! It is, it really is.

The days of collecting your gold carriage clock, having retired from the company you joined at 17, are gone. The assumed career-ladder tick-box route through the business is no longer relevant. Good people will sometimes leave your business. And if handled well, that can be great: great for them, great for you, and great for your future as a leader.

Here's why. A COO once said to me ‘We never talk about what people want to do when they leave.’ At the time, the very idea of talking about departure was alien. We’re British; we don’t have awkward conversations. But his words stuck with me. Now, every first-stage interview I conduct will address that topic: what do you want to do when you leave us?

Either the candidate will tell me exactly what their plans are, or they’ll sit for a moment in stunned silence before I explain that honestly, it’s ok to discuss.

Not once has a candidate told me that their goal is to stay with the firm until they get their carriage clock.

By addressing your employee's future goals from day one, you can make sure you create a learning and development plan that gets them there. If their goals are a complete side-step from the role you’re hiring for, then you get to dig deeper into their motivations for applying (and potentially screen out those who don’t have real interest in the role).

Being an openminded employer will also get you closer to your employees – and thus make you much more likely to get a heads-up on their eventual departure, giving you a far greater lead time in backfilling.

Sometimes, the employee will simply come to the end of their journey with you. It’s not always about salary. They may want to experience a different environment, a new product, a new technical challenge, new industry...whatever! It doesn't mean you were a bad boss. It just means it’s time to move on. If the exit experience is a positive one you are more likely to have an ambassador on the outside, and that is invaluable – someone out there flying your flag, recommending you as a place to work, referring hires to you. You can’t get that for free anywhere.

Don’t get me wrong: if you are a bad leader, no-one will stick around, no matter the salary or size of the ping pong table. But sometimes people simply leave because it’s the right time. And that’s ok too.

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