Is it a Sign of Success for a Team to Lose Key Employees?

September 25, 2014

Employee retention. Those are two words that you hear often if you’re in a management position at a PR and marketing agency. It’s no secret that the agency world is primarily known for being a revolving door. Keeping key employees is easier for some than others, but it’s not always about creating a smart, awesome culture to just keep people onboard. It’s about building a successful team that is clear on the vision of the company and the client service you’ve established to be able to move forward if a key member exits.
You may think that a star team member is someone you don’t think is replaceable: someone who has years of experience with your company, is great at what she does and has nurtured and developed the relationships with client contacts that were initially established by your company’s founding team.  The thought of ever losing her feels like a great loss to your organization and makes you feel that if she does leave, the revolving door will be a domino effect for other team members. Right?
But, then she leaves.
As the agency owner, questions fly through your mind. Can others live up to her quality of service and learned relationship building? Can anyone else be trained to fill her position? How long would that take? Are you going to lose clients or other revenue? Will your employees be stressed because they are taking on more work?
But, after all this, the real question is: Should this really be the reality if you build the right team?
An industry contact recently told me that the biggest mistake he ever made in agency management was worrying about losing his top performers. He’d walk into work everyday thinking about what he could do to keep them there. He thought about culture, he thought about fun and he thought about giving them the tools they needed to be successful. But, what he didn’t think about was focusing on the team, and not just the individual employees. You can’t micro-manage people to make them successful and you can’t focus on one person to drive the client or company forward. Your goal is to clearly define the strategy, deliverables and the vision to the team and let them find their way to deliver based on their experience.
Too many managers and agency owners rack their brains about what they could have done to keep these stars around longer. If you’ve done everything right, instead, you can think about how you have furthered this person’s career and mentored her to the next level among a successful team. Everyone will survive if you have strong and nimble employees who can handle the departure.
To hear other valuable lessons from established CEOs and entrepreneurs we know, check out my article in BostInno.

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