Losing Employees: Don’t Leave Me This Way

Human Resources 20th April 2015

…I can’t survive, I can’t stay alive, without your love…

So goes the classic song, originally recorded by Melvin and the Blue Notes, made famous by Motown artist Thelma Houston in 1977 and then given the 80’s treatment by pop duo, The Communards in 1986*.  In which the continuance of the relationship was crucial to the survival of the singer, and being left was simply not an option.  There was evidently no continuity plan in place.

Employers very often perceive the removal of an employee from their business as being a difficult, time consuming and costly process.  Often the reality is quite different, although there is no doubt that the employer has obligations and responsibilities when an employee is to leave a business against their will.  The means and methods by which employers may part company with employees are not the topic of this post, however.

No, it is in fact the ease with which an employee may leave their employment on which we will focus here.  As we say to clients all the time – you are, at any time only a notice period away from losing any person’s skills and experience from your business.

If the employer and employee have agreed nothing in terms of notice, the employee will be obliged to give just one week’s notice to leave their employment.  This does not increase with the employee’s length of service (unlike the notice period imposed on the employer).  The parties may agree longer notice periods in contracts of employment, which is one of many good reasons to put employment contracts in place.

And the employer may not even get that.  Although an employee who leaves their employment without giving the appropriate period of notice is technically in breach of contract, the best available remedy to an employer in those circumstances is compensation for financial loss suffered as a result of the employee not working their notice (such as increased salary costs of pulling in emergency temporary cover).  No court will force a person to continue to provide their services against their will.

How can you protect a business from losing key skills and experience from the business?  There are 2 aspects to this which should be regarded as equally important:

Reduce the potential impact of them leaving

Even for the very smallest of businesses, it is crucial that no single employee holds the key to work methods, processes or information without which the business would suffer.  We refer to this as a Single Point of Failure (SPOF).  Business owners or trusted consultants should also have this knowledge, either from experience or from written process information from which another person could carry out the work.

Make them want to stay

This should not be used as a single strategy to the exclusion of cross skilling.  However, an employer with a high staff turnover is in most cases haemorrhaging profits as a result of incurring recruitment costs and lost productivity during the intervening period between an employee resigning and the new staff member reaching the required standard following induction.

Employers are increasingly realising that their workforce are not necessarily motivated by money. Fringe benefits, flexible working and a supportive friendly culture can all go a long way to underpin a long, happy and (crucially) profitable working relationship.

When employing people, employers should remember that the old adage “no-one is indispensable” works both ways.  Assuming any employee will never leave them is a risky approach to business continuity.

For a no obligation discussion on protecting your business using the dual approach outlined above, call Dawn or Mark on 01604 763494 or fill in the contact form to the right of this page.


*Incidentally, the (now) Reverend Richard Coles, formerly 50% of The Communards, is now the vicar of the Parish of Finedon, Northamptonshire.  Which serves neatly to illustrate the point that anyone can change direction in their work!

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