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How to Handle Losing Your Star Employee Without Losing Your Customers Too

CoAdvantage – Sometimes individual employees can be more critical to a business than may be immediately apparent. For example, many businesses rely on ongoing, established customer relationships that flow through individual account managers. Alternatively, a company may hire star salespeople who leverage their own extensive personal networks to make new sales. In these cases, the business may underestimate how much they are depending on those individual workers to keep their business running.

That, in turn, introduces a major risk: what happens when you lose those star employees, who might end up taking their accounts or their personally cultivated professional networks with them?

1: Prevent the problem by not losing the employee

Organizations can sidestep the risk by ensuring the employee(s) in question remain highly engaged and loyal, boosting the likelihood of long-term retention. This starts before they’re even hired, with good recruiting processes that ensure a good fit and onboarding experience before the employee even starts. From there, it relies on competitive pay structures, enticing benefits packages, and effective management to ensure star performers stay with you. Here, getting help from expert recruiters and HR professionals can strengthen recruitment and retention for all employees, including the stars.

2: Prevent the problem by not losing the client, even when the employee leaves

Above all else, ensure that relationships are maintained with the company, not the individual. Yes, a dedicated account managers simplifies customer support by a single point of contact, but they should not be the only contact the client ever has with the company.

You can also lock in clients through contracts; even if the account manager leaves, the client will still be contractually obligated until the expiration of the contract. This may only delay the problem, but it will give the company a window of opportunity to re-establish the relationship before the client can defect.

3: Respond to the problem in effective ways

You may have legal rights if a star employee absconds with a bunch of customers. However, what, if any, legal options make sense will depend on many factors: what contractual agreements you had with the former employee (e.g., did they sign a non-compete agreement?) and the applicable laws and regulations in your jurisdiction.

Legal maneuvers can be delicate territory, however. Even if the employer has contractual rights, trying to compel an employee to return or trying to seize possession of client accounts that wanted to go with the employee can end up backfiring. Before turning to legal solutions, it may make more sense to try to reach out informally and get a better understanding of why the employees/clients left and see if you can make it more attractive for them to return.

Importantly, the loss of a star employee can sometimes turn into a blessing in disguise. Star employees can overshadow other workers, and this situation can offer a chance for the company to redistribute resources and incentives, and to reinvest in skills development. It may even be possible to do better than before with just incremental improvements from the rest of the team. Star employers are only ever just one person, after all.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.