In times where retention/recruiting is already a concern, it can be extremely difficult to bounce back from losing your best employee. Here are some thoughts to get you back to business.

I was inspired to write this after learning a couple close friends left their agencies for bigger, less stressful ventures. They were absolute all-stars and many were left wondering what was going to happen without them.

All-Stars leave for two reasons

All-Stars want to feel valued and be able to provide value. If they can’t do either, what is the reason for staying? Look at any Fortune 500 company or even sports. All-Stars routinely leave their home team to be valued and provide value to winning teams/organizations. Troy Tulowitzki and Lebron James all left their high paying sports teams to receive value from a new team (winning).

You have more than one all-star

Each of your employees has value in the organization. The worst employee in your organization has contributed something. Even if they were the persistent complainer, they probably provided some comedic value. Just because someone in your organization has moved on, doesn’t mean the machine is going to stop rolling. This separation does mean that we need to evaluate what happened and how to prevent it in the future if possible. Don’t let the floodgates open.

Exit interviews suck

Many organizations view the exit interview as their means of bettering retention. This is an effective tool if done properly. However, most simply use a HR director or someone who is less than capable of influencing change to conduct the interview! The information given at these exit interviews is rarely shared with influencers in the organization, much less presented in a productive manner. If your people matter to you, then you should be doing the exit interview and working with them to prevent future all-stars from leaving. Turn that information into an actionable item.

Plan for succession

This goes without saying. However, the intricacies of succession planning are often overlooked, leaving the agency to play catch up. Plan out pending retirements if possible (years in advance). Identify those roles and responsibilities and start training qualified replacements. Ideally, you should also recognize when your people are burning out, especially if they are that proverbial ‘all-star.’ Recognizing their assets and exploring them will allow for others to learn from them, thereby acquiring those desirable assets.

Share the wealth

Share the wealth of knowledge and experiences that your people have. Too often, there are one or two people in a smaller organization that get to go to all the cool schools, is the instructor for everything, receives all the enjoyable assignments, etc. Almost every agency prides itself on having a diverse organization, but are the experiences and value truly spread out? Look at your training hour audits, overtime audits, and tenure in an assignment or division. Is there a common name that sticks out? I was one of those people, but when I was asked to share, I recognized the value in helping others. Your all-stars and lucky ones will be willing to help out, just ask.

Gather unfiltered information

It is essential to understand the work processes and products that your staff are delivering (this goes for ANY company/organization). The employees are the ones that will tell you where you are wasting money/time. They will be the ones to point out training deficiencies and may even be able to come up with an idea to solve one of your problems!

Getting this information can be tricky. Typically, line level staff aren’t willing or comfortable speaking with executive staff. One on one conversations are ideal for eliciting feedback. This is often difficult for larger organizations or smaller ones with personality conflicts. Other methods of gathering information from your staff to help you are things like independent surveys/assessments, suggestion boxes (anonymous or not), communication enhancement strategies (communication training, candid feedback sessions/workshops, monthly executive updates, etc).

Do not wait until your best players leave the team to realize you have a retention problem. One organization I worked with was like the Oakland A’s for the last 25 years—they had a ton of talent, but could not keep the star players and win a championship (even despite a great salary). You want to run your organization like the New York Yankees, Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots, Manchester United, or the New Zealand All Blacks. They all recognize and provide value to players. They have the crowds cheering for them, they are funding themselves more every year (increased salaries), and they are stealing your all-stars to get better.

Do not be scared to ask for help. Your employees are willing to give it! If you need some free survey forms or ideas, I am happy to help increase your efficacy in this area.


Sean Kenney is an experienced police officer, with numerous accolades and medals throughout his career. He operates a Law Enforcement consulting and training firm aimed at developing strategies to improve morale and bridge the gap between employees, managers, and the community they serve. He can be reached at: [email protected]