How to Avoid Being Dumped by Your Best Employees

Slide1Are you surprised that 2 million Americans quit each month, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Corporate America faces a $6 billion-plus epidemic. Replacing one quitter costs $3K to $18K, according to Technology supports covert exit strategies (e.g., How to Secretly Use LinkedIn), the economy faces an uptick in job openings (as mentioned on Varney & Co), and professionals sense an end to this 18-month slump.

The Great Recession was the ultimate boot camp for the fittest workers, and now their tolerance for doing the jobs of three employees while earning one salary is depleting. Ironically, employees used this downturn to become more employable. Some returned to school. Others refined their survival skills by keeping firms afloat despite industry-wide setbacks. All did more with fewer resources. As a result, currently employed Americans can back up their confidence to quit.

Employees had time to reevaluate three factors that impacted whether they chose to quit: the definition of job security, what they would tolerate from a suboptimal work environment, and whether they felt appreciated in light of concessions made during a poor job market. These three factors are dynamic, making it difficult for corporate America to mitigate what is becoming this decade’s biggest profit leakage. However, the solution is under its nose, specifically within marketing departments.

Let’s talk about these factors in light of what my clients are saying.

The definition of job security has evolved from the promise of stability to that of a continuous learning environment

My clients are top talents who are most likely to jump ship when the economy turns. Most of them thought about quitting when they lost trust in their employer’s ability to provide them with a job tied to a steady source of career-building or wealth-building opportunities. Their peers were let go. Bonuses were withheld. They became exhausted asking for promised promotions.

With this trust fractured, they reevaluated what job security really meant for them. The definition shifted from the ability to give them a stable job to the ability in developing their skills so they would be forever employable, within and beyond an organization.

This notion of job security as continuous professional development is taking precedence over even matching an A-player with a phenomenal boss. One of my clients declined a strong job offer from his favorite boss because it excluded funding for his MBA. The desire for more reliable career safety nets (ex: general-training programs or education subsidies) is becoming a deciding factor.

The standards of what it takes to treat employees well is dynamic

Treating your employees well will help rebuild their trust in your capability to make them employable for a longer term. However, figuring out what it takes to treat employees well is like aiming for a moving target. Employees are more tolerant of suboptimal treatment during poor job markets. Corporate restructurings also change how employees wish to be treated. Employees need an added incentive to stay onboard when faced with the same career-building opportunity after peers have been let go.

Meanwhile, it becomes harder to stay abreast of personal changes in your employees that can redefine what they expect from you. Strategically micromanaging your star employees can help you have a better sense of these private changes. The most effective ways to ascertain their expectations is by leveraging customer-loyalty-building strategies: conducting primary research and building solutions so they will adore you. Most employees will not tell you the truth for fear of burning bridges, so find a talent management partner who can offer you a direct feed into changing trends rather than one who relies on static data.

It takes more today for an employee to feel recognized than in the past

Employees also have different notions of what it is to be properly recognized. 95% of my clients focus on public testimonials from former bosses, while only 5% refer to internal awards. Your most desirable employees no longer think these award programs are worthwhile because they are only coveted in-house. Today, employees are calling for broader recognition programs that extend across industries.

Bigger wins call for bigger prizes, just like at carnivals: if you throw the ball in the hardest bull’s-eye, you get a bigger teddy. My clients have done amazing things. How do you recognize a pioneer in the distressed-debt field who kept his firm afloat during the Asian financial crisis and the US Great Recession? Consider how marketers are engendering customer loyalty. SAP features customers in airport ads to serve as case studies for potential clients and to engender tighter relationships with existing patrons. SAP is recognizing its clients through the tagline “The best-run businesses run SAP.” It’s time to recognize your most desirable employees in public, and it doesn’t require spending thousands in ads. Consider companies like HubSpot, which features its top thought leaders on its site, along with their signature presentations. The ultimate way to recognize employees today is by bringing your praise online: elevate their leadership potential so they will be forever employable.


The best-run businesses today will consider their top employees’ redefined notions of job security by proactively ramping up engagement and retention efforts. Americans are not quitting abruptly. Many bankers evaluate their savings to eventually jump into social investing when they hit that magic savings amount. Some professionals work on e-books and blogs to launch shadow careers, hoping they can focus on them full time later. Others jump without a parachute, realizing it’s just as risky working for you as it is working for themselves. Your best employees are in the trenches thinking about their exit strategies. There is still time to reevaluate how to retain them.

IMG_4115Email me [melissa (at) melissallarena (dot) com] to discuss how I can stop this profit leakage by giving you access to what your top employees want. Given my individual coaching relationships, I can leverage the same principles the best marketers in the world have used to increase customer loyalty and regain the trust of your employees while building recognition programs that are suitable for today’s successes.

Melissa Llarena

Melissa Llarena is an author, imagination coach, consultant, speaker, and contributor to ForbesWomen articles that have garnered 4 million + views. She is also the host of Unimaginable Wellness, the podcast for entrepreneurs, founders, and creators who are also moms. Featured guests include GaryVee and Beth Comstock. Melissa holds a psychology degree from New York University, an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and a Transformational Coaching Academy certificate. She is training to become a meditation practitioner. Melissa lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three sons. Visit

Leave a Comment