The Tricky Thing About Retention

The Tricky Thing About Retention

A young woman walked into my office on a sunny autumn afternoon. She was one of our firm’s most highly valued employees. At 26, she had been able to master our complex business, build strong and genuine relationships with her peers, and amaze our clients with her responsiveness and grasp of their needs. We recruited her only three years prior and had plans to promote her in the upcoming year with increased responsibility and fast-track to account management, the key role in our firm. I welcomed her arrival into my office. She always was cheerful and a great storyteller, and I was excited to hear about her latest client meeting or whatever other topic she wanted to discuss. In the first five minutes, I learned how she had solved a knotty issue for the client and the results she had been able to achieve. She took a breath and then concluded, “and I think I’m ready for something different.” Ha! I was prepared; I spilled my enthusiasm for her contributions and how I saw a bright future ahead for her at the company. Her response left me stunned. I never saw it coming. “No, I mean really different. I’m giving you my two weeks’ notice. I’m joining an improv group here in the city. I want to do stand-up comedy.” The tricky thing about retention is, until you have a valued employee tell you they’re leaving, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. High potential talent may have aspirations you can’t even imagine. In today’s economy, we are seeing low unemployment, increasing opportunities, and a gig economy that...