At the dawn of the space age everyone was in it together. Fear may have been there at first, but good vibes were, too, and eventually took over. Even at the Cold War’s height, most every culture on Earth found camaraderie in cheering on these brave, revered humans as they succeeded in their endeavor to leave this earthly plain and touch the hand of God—or reach the Moon, at least.
It’s been a group effort so far for homo sapiens to escape Earth’s gravitational force and enter space, the final frontier. And there’s a metaphor here for employer culture, and it bears on employee flight risk.
An employee might escape your organization’s gravitational force because you are a nurturing mentor and great employer. The next logical step is for him to populate another world—i.e., another employer. Or, an alum may leave your world to form another company or become CEO at a noncompeting firm. Voila! Your footprint and hers expand, and both worlds win.
Other times, however, your best employees do everything they can to escape a failing, toxic employer culture. Perhaps your culture is so bad that you fire them. It’s not unlike SpaceX. They’re inspiring, but you just know plenty of Earth’s best with enough disposable income are standing in line to escape what they see as a failing world. They hope to find a world where they can be treated, and do things, right. (Some of Earth’s worst might be in line, too, but that’s a tangent for another day.)
Is it an achievement, or something else, for your organization when a good employee leaves? Well, that depends on your employer culture. Employees leave with support from you, or despite of you—or because of you. And all this should matter to you, and not just for a feel-good rationale. The financial cost to replace a high-performing employee is significant. Some studies place it at more than 200 percent of a highly trained salaried employee’s straight annual pay.
What are your best employees’ final frontiers, and why? Are you at least experiencing a win because the departing employee went on to great things and spoke great things of your organization? Or will that employee speak ill of your company to anyone who will listen? Negativity will levy incalculable damage to your employer brand, the only gravitational force adequate for your lasting success. That is, the cost in dollars of this damage will surely far exceed the 200 percent of the lost employee’s cost to replace—even though you’ll never know the exact amount. Worse still, if your very best departing employees’ final frontiers don’t align with your employer brand, you’ll pay this price over and over again.