When a Staffing Tsunami Hits …

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Do you have good employee retention? Up until this past year, I would have said we do.

Yes, we have had employees come and go, but overall we have employees who stick around. And then ... In a matter of five months, I turned over 31 percent of my team—hence, the Staff Tsunami. The kicker is, it's not the first time I've experienced this. About four and half years ago, I lost 25 percent of my staff in four months.

You may be thinking: "She must be a crappy manager/leader." If I'm being honest, there were days I thought the very same thing. However, when my second Staff Tsunami hit, I handled it substantially different than I did the first.

Let me start by telling you about the first Staff Tsunami. It was summer 2012: Two of the team were getting married, two were having babies, a key member of the team had unexpected health problems and could no longer work. I'm not talking about work-from-home health problems; I'm talking this person could no longer work. Another team member moved and we had to change another key employee. That summer, I was writing/editing—which is not my strength, to say the least. I was laying out magazines—and I don't know how to use InDesign. I was hiring replacements, trying to run a business, trying to see my family.

Needless to say, I saw a few more gray hairs that summer.

The good news: I recognized I needed help. Of course I needed staff, but that wasn't the kind of help I was looking for. I genuinely needed someone to talk to about my business. I was fortunate to find a great match in a leadership coach. Suzanne Foerster and I made a connection right away, and we started to build a better foundation to draw from.

When the Staff Tsunami hit this past winter, I handled in stride what came my way. And I've learned a few things through this process.

Turnover is normal.
In the early days I believed if we created a great working environment, provided good benefits and did wonderful work, we would be able to retain employees. I'm not saying that isn't the case today, but sometime life disrupts your team. People move, people go to graduate school, sometimes opportunities present themselves to employees that you just can't compete with, sometimes it just isn't the right fit.

Define who you are.
Be sure to have your mission, vision and core values—but take it a step further and create your brand standards, hiring philosophies and corporate culture standards. This helps you find people who believe in the culture you have created and want to work in that environment. Every work environment isn't for everyone, and that's OK.

Be cautious of finding "The Right Replacement."
If you hired a great person, it's likely his or her shoes are pretty big to fill. Rather than trying to find someone just like her, think outside the box and re-evaluate the team you have, their skills, and how you might restructure the work for maximum productivity.

If I'm being truthful, turnover is painful. It's how you deal with it, however, that's important. I choose to look at turnover now as an opportunity. And opportunity fosters development, brings new business and keeps you challenged.

Written by Kasie Smith, Serendipity Media president and publisher.


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