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Brent Knight, CSP; President of ISS, Inc.

One of my favorite quotes is from Richard Branson, the founder, and CEO of the Virgin brands. Richard said, “Train your employees so that they can leave you but treat them so that they don’t want to.” This is a profound concept and one that I have long endorsed, but I feel like employers are embracing this concept less and less.

I know that is a bold statement or opinion on my part, so let me explain. It seems that employees are less loyal than they have ever been and are quick to leave a job for something new. You can’t blame employees for wanting more, but from the employer’s perspective, it can be exhausting. Many employers put a lot of time and money into hiring employees and doing everything that they can to retain them. When they continually lose employees, it becomes painful and can begin to change the way that the employer views hiring as well as their attitude towards their employees.

Here is what I know based on experience. Employees are going to do what they are going to do, and employers have very little influence over their decisions. If this is the case, what can employers do? I would answer by saying, treat them well, respect them, pay them very well, give them benefits, give them time off, train them and help them grow in their job and their career, and finally, wish them well when they leave. Huh? Exactly, treat them well and they will come back. That is really all that we can do. They are not going to know that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence until they go over. We can make it safe for them to admit their mistake and come back, hopefully for good. Yes, this might be wishful thinking, but it is better than parting on bad terms.

The employment landscape is trickier than it has ever been, and employees seem more unsettled than ever before. We can try to control aspects of this, but I feel that it is futile. In my opinion, all that we can control is what we do, how we treat people, and most importantly we can control our attitude. It is easy to get frustrated and feel cheated, but it does no good. Just carry on, build relationships, and take care of your people. The rest will work itself out.

There is no proven formula that works all the time, so we just need to determine our stance and stick to it. With all the competition in the market, employees are being lured and we need to give them many good reasons to work for us. As much as we may feel that we deserve employee loyalty, that is no longer a realistic expectation. If we are lucky, we can expect employee honesty and commitment while they work for us and hope that they say nice things about their employment experience with us when they leave.