Your Best Employee Just Quit

It’s the worst way to start a day. She just gave her two-week’s notice (and no, she’s not open to a counteroffer).

employee-quitI just hung up with one of my favorite clients, a CEO.

I asked “Why are you calling me, a headhunter? Who do you plan to promote into her role?” (Silence)

“That’s the thing. I don’t have anybody. Nobody who’s ready to step up.”

When one of your best folks gives notice, and you call a headhunter… you have failed – big time.

You’ve failed as leader, as organizational designer, and as chief-succession-planner.

The time to succession plan is before she gives notice. Do it today.

Here’s how:

  1. List out the top 10 most vital people to your organization. You know who they are. The ones who if they left would make you cry yourself to sleep.
  2. Next to each of the 10, list two existing employees who could possibly, conceivably even if it’s a stretch, step into that role even just on an interim basis just to hold things together until you find a more permanent solution.
  3. Now, next to each of those two people, list the 2-3 key competencies they’re missing in order to successfully execute that role. What’s the gap analysis? Begin today creating a plan to get them those skills. Their manager should take the lead. Perhaps it’s thru job shadowing, or stretch projects, or online courses.

Congratulations, you’ve started succession planning. Based on my experience, you’re now ahead of 95% of the business leaders out there.

They never do it until the “oh shit!” moment.

(When he was CEO of GE, Jack Welch made it his obsession to be able to fill a vacancy by the end of the day, literally Eight hours from resignation to the appointment of a capable successor.)

Remember that promoting an insider is almost always preferable, by a long measure, to a random outside stranger. Even if it’s a stretch, it’s usually a safer bet (and far faster) than choosing someone off the street.

Half of new hires fail within 18 months. Those are coin-toss odds.

You already know that the insider matches your company’s DNA (which can’t be trained or taught). So now, you just have to get them the skills.

Do it before your best person gives notice.

(Because in a 3.6% unemployment world, it’s just a matter of time before she does.)

Never settle,



Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

No Replies to "Your Best Employee Just Quit"