Listen to Your Rock Stars

RockstarJust a few days ago, I was talking with a friend, ‘Joe’, about their job.  Joe is in sales and does quite well.  He is consistently the top sales person in his company and has already met his 2014 sales goal.  He is what I call a rock star!

During this conversation, Joe told me that he felt under appreciated at work and that he was so overwhelmed, he desperately needed to take a vacation but didn’t feel like he could leave the work behind to take time off.  I asked if there were other people in his company who could handle his accounts while he was on vacation and he said no.  He couldn’t afford to leave his accounts to someone else because he didn’t want to run the risk of upsetting a client.   Certainly understandable but by no means sustainable for Joe.   Another issue is that Joe needs help in the market that he’s built and the company doesn’t want to spend the money hiring someone else to help with the market.

Trust me, Joe needs a vacation and help in the market before he burns out.  I asked him if he’s mentioned to his boss that he’s feeling this way…surely his boss would want to do anything to keep him happy, seeing as how he brings in so much revenue for the company.  My friend said this: “The company doesn’t care about me.  If I stay or go, they will just hire someone else to replace me.”  Ouch.

Unfortunately, Joe is absolutely right, they will just hire someone else even though Joe is a top performer…doesn’t that mean anything to this company? Many times no, it doesn’t.

Do you know how much money it will cost this company to replace Joe?  Honestly, it’s tough to put a number on it.  There are articles that tell you how much you will spend to recruit a new employee, hire, train and ramp up a new employee but what about the relationships lost? Can a company determine the business the former employee was about to close the month they quit?  Or the business lost because the clients only liked working with the former employee.  Trust me when I tell you…this is a lot more money lost than Joe made and more money lost than it would take to hire help for Joe’s market.

Companies need to make sure they are taking care of their rock stars by treating them like rock stars.  I’m not talking about separating their M&Ms so only the red ones are in the bowl, or room temperature water from the Swiss Alps.  I’m talking about companies recognizing those employees who they can’t afford to lose and making sure they are happy and content. This is what a good office culture is all about, retaining great employees and saying good bye to low performers.  I loved reading this article by Eric Jackson, The Top 8 Reasons Your Best People Are About to Quit . All very good points and the first point fits Joe’s situation.

This isn’t tough to fix, sometimes it is as simple as sitting down with top performers and asking “Are you happy here at ‘X’ company? What can we do to make you happier?”  Many times the issue or perk a rock star wants, isn’t that big of a deal at all.  Joe, just wants to take the time off he’s earned without feeling like his accounts will fall apart while he’s on the beach and he wants the higher ups to acknowledge that he could use some help in his market. Even if the company can’t fix these two issues for Joe, listening to him might just prolong Joe’s urge to jump ship.

If you have employees working for you right now that you do not want to lose, sit down with them in the next few weeks and ask them if they are happy and really listen to the answers.  I think you might be happy you did.  If you are the employee feeling under appreciated, you may have to initiate a frank conversation with your boss about why you are not happy.