How to stop a resignation becoming an exodus

The best way to stop people from leaving your company is to create an environment that they want to work in. Employees value a great employer so if you: ensure your team feels valued; nurture a praise culture; offer clear career progression; incentivise them with more than straightforward remuneration; and deliver strong leadership with a clear vision then they will be hard for anyone to prise away.

However, on occasion every firm loses a valued employee and when you do others may follow. So what can you do to minimise the likelihood of one departure becoming an exodus?

Contractual protection – many contracts have restrictive covenants designed to prevent former employees from employing ex-colleagues. These are not always enforceable but they are a good deterrent. The more senior staff are and the more EMI shares they have, the longer the restrictive covenants are likely to be.

Know the social dynamics – when employees leave it is the former colleagues they got on best with socially and professionally who they will likely talk to about the benefits of their new employer. Strengthen your relationships with team members the departing individual was close to.

Learn from your loss – before the departing employee disappears make sure that you conduct an exit interview to understand why they started to look for a new challenge, what might potentially have made them stay and what their new employer is offering that is so attractive. Even if you can’t make a successful counter offer you’ll have a better idea of what you need to do to keep the rest of your team.

Communicate internally – a team member leaving is unsettling for their colleagues causing them to question whether their position is safe and/or whether there may be better opportunities for them elsewhere. Make sure that you increase communication both at an individual and a team/company-wide level to provide reassurance and highlight the positives of working for your firm. Focus particular attention on those closest to the person leaving.

Create incentives with retention in mind –  a well structured incentives plan can help keep staff at the firm longer, giving you the chance to consolidate your team and giving them time to form relationships at work. Examples of effective schemes include: commission schemes for sales staff that pay out over time not in one lump sum, quarterly and annual rewards, EMI share schemes etc.

Good employees are hard to find, so invest in keeping the ones that you have.


Alex Arnot is non-executive director to more than 35 companies.