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Focus on agency employee retention

Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks and Patrick Rogan of Ignition HR join Chip Griffin of SAGA to talk about how to hold on to your best employees — especially in the age of the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting.

The panel explores the importance of re-recruiting your own team, but also explains why you shouldn’t fight to change an employee’s mind who has decided to leave.

You will also hear how to communicate with the whole team when an employee does depart — voluntarily or otherwise — and why that has such an impact on curbing the domino effect that can occur when a top performer exits.

Key takeaways

  • Patrick Rogan: “With retention, the best time to be worried about it is when it looks to be great. Because that’s the time you have the opportunity to do something about it.”
  • Gini Dietrich: “Trends show people have decided they should make more money and not just more money. Significantly more money. So the conversations that we’re having with employees are, I think I deserve a $40,000 raise. And I’m like, so do I!”
  • Chip Griffin: “Retention really starts before you even extend the offer to the employee in the first place.
  • Patrick Rogan: “The response that I typically see from staff with an involuntary termination communication is what took you so long?”
  • Gini Dietrich: “You absolutely cannot go from the meeting where the employee has resigned and immediately tell your team. Take some time to both build a transition plan with that key employee and build the plan post-transition so that your team knows what’s happening.”
  • Chip Griffin: “If someone tells me they want to go, I want to make it as easy as possible for them to leave.”

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Small Agency Talk Show. I’m your host, Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance, and I am absolutely delighted as always to have two great panelists with me here, Patrick Rogan of Ignition HR and Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks, and of course, the Agency Leadership Podcast.

Welcome to the show, everybody.

Gini Dietrich: Thank you.

Chip Griffin: Great to have you here. We’re gonna have a good discussion today. It’s a, you know, nice sunny Friday here in New England. The fall leaves are pretty much gone, but what can you do?

Gini Dietrich: Oh, they are, already?

Chip Griffin: They’re, they’re, I mean, we’re certainly past peak in our part of the state at least. Last weekend would’ve, would’ve been peak. This week, there’s a lot more on the ground than there are on the trees. Lots of cleanup to do.

Gini Dietrich: Great. That’s always fun.

Chip Griffin: It is what it is. It’s also been very cold. We had our first frost this week, so.

Gini Dietrich: Oh, wow.

Chip Griffin: I know from talking with you, Gini, you, you had it pretty cold earlier in the week as well.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, but we haven’t had frost yet. It’s been thirty, It’s been mid upper thirties, but no frost yet.

Chip Griffin: Well, That’s what we get for living in cold places. Patrick, I’m sure it’s much warmer where you are, right?

Patrick Rogan: Oh, down in Maryland it’s very balmy. Yeah. Very, very nice. We do have, we do have leaves on trees, so we’re happy with that.

Gini Dietrich: Oh, you do? Wow.

Patrick Rogan: Yeah, they’re pretty colors.

Chip Griffin: But have, have you put your boat away yet?

Patrick Rogan: No. It’s, I still want to get one or two more times out on the bay, so hopefully fingers crossed we’ll be able to, we’ll be able to do that.

Chip Griffin: We will keep our fingers crossed for you, but, but not too much because boats are, well, well in the, the rear view mirror here in New Hampshire, so in any case, alright, that, that’s not why people tuned in. They don’t care about us talking about the weather and what it looks like out our windows. They want us to talk about intelligent things related to small PR and marketing agencies, and that’s what we’re going to do today. And we’re gonna talk about the domino effect, but not just the domino effect.

We’re gonna talk about how that is tied into retention, because a lot of small agencies are worried about making sure that they keep their existing team in place. It’s hard enough to go out and recruit when you’re growing. It’s even harder when you’re just having to recruit to replace people who move on for whatever reason.

So, given, Patrick, your expertise, expertise in HR and Gini, your expertise in running a small agency, retaining staff and all that. I thought it would be great for us to be talking about some of these issues. And so how should we be thinking about retention of our current teams given the current environment where we’re talking about, you know, the great resignation, quiet quitting, all these other things.

I mean, there’s just so many things to be worried about, aren’t there?

Patrick Rogan: Yeah, for sure, for sure.

Gini Dietrich: Yes.

Chip Griffin: So, so put my mind at ease.

Patrick Rogan: Well, it’s funny, it’s, what I notice is with retention, the best time to be worried about it is when it looks to be great. Because that’s the time you have the opportunity to do something about it. More often that when I get involved, things have already gotten to a very, very ugly place and now we need to fix things before we get things to where we really want them to be.

So I always like, so like with my clients, I push the question early in the process and I give hypotheticals like, Hey, what if you lost someone key, how would that work? How would that play through? And all of a sudden I can scare ’em up a little to think about some basic things we can do, like just talking, having conversations, talking about career progression, kind of rerecruiting our existing employees.

My experience has been agencies that do that up front tend to have less problems on the backend. What we can talk more about, the backend problems, what to do when they do happen, and the domino effect on all those kind of crazy things. But I always like to spend more time preventing bad things from happening so that we have to spend less time dealing with the bad things that have happened, if that makes any sense.

Chip Griffin: It does. I mean, it’s, So basically what you’re saying is it’s like almost every other problem that you can encounter, it’s better to think about it when you don’t actually have it. So that means you know, when you’re putting together your partnership agreement, think about what happens when the partnership goes bad.

Do it while things are good. Don’t try to figure out how to solve it afterwards. Retention, think about it when you don’t have a problem. New business, we’ve talked about this recently, I think Gini. You need to focus on it most when you are the busiest with client work because you don’t have a business development problem, but you will if you’re not thinking about it then.

So retention, what I’m hearing you say, Patrick is the same way.

Patrick Rogan: It is, it is. When you wait until it’s a problem, you’ve waited too long.

Chip Griffin: So Gini, how should we be thinking about it?

Gini Dietrich: You know, I, if you don’t mind, I wanna come back to that because…

Chip Griffin: Absolutely.

Gini Dietrich: Patrick said something that I think is, is very valid for agency owners and that’s rerecruiting your, your employees.

So I’d love to spend a little bit of time on that and what that looks like. Why we should do it, you know, is – what does it mean to rerecruit your employees?

Chip Griffin: Well, we’ve got Patrick, who’s an HR guru, so let’s, let’s go right to the expert here.

Patrick Rogan: I can, I can…

Chip Griffin: We’re just going to sit here and get some free advice from you, Patrick, today.

Patrick Rogan: That’s fine.

Gini Dietrich: That’s exactly right.

Patrick Rogan: That’s no problem. That’s no problem. It’s from, from my perspective, rerecruiting is the active process of making sure that we have things buttoned up in what I call the employee value proposition. The employee value proposition is quite simply the answer to the question, why should my employees stay here?

Why do they want to stay here? And it often begins with asking the question, Hey, why are you here? Like, what do you like about working here? That’s a great way to begin the conversation. What are we doing right? And then, and then you have to remember, there’s another piece to that, right? And that is, so what could we be doing better?

What are things you would like to see that you haven’t seen? What are things that would impact you personally? Or what are things you observe with others that we might, we want to be thinking about at, at the same time. Once you get that conversation going, my experience is you can get sort of, a very rich amount of information.

And then as an, as an owner, you can decide. Which of these can I act upon? Which can I not act upon? And, my recommendation is always start with the things that cost the least or the easiest to implement and will have the most value to employees. If you get those three, I mean, like, some of this stuff is so complicated and you know, if the value to the employees isn’t that great, you know, I would say put that off a little bit.

What are the other ones that we can… where’s your low hanging fruit? And kind of begin there, if that makes any sense.

Gini Dietrich: So one of the biggest challenges we’ve had, especially this year as you know, the trends have shown is people have decided they should make more money and not just more money.

But significantly more money. Yeah. And so the conversations that we’re having all the time are, I think I, I deserve a $40,000 raise. And I’m like, so do I! Like , I don’t know how to do that. And when you have more than one person asking you for, you know, a 50, 60, 70, a hundred percent raise, you’re, the re-recruiting of your employees becomes pretty challenging at that point.

Patrick Rogan: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And then what happens after that. So let’s say I give a $40,000 increase to a key employee, and then someone else finds out about that, and then does everyone get a 40? And like we can’t operate.

Gini Dietrich: Right. Right. Can’t, Right. You can’t afford it.

Chip Griffin: And, and surprise – they will find out, right? Oh, for sure. I mean, there’s, your team knows when these things happen, no matter how much you think, Oh, there’s no way that Sally’s gonna tell someone else.

Sally’s gonna tell someone else, or they’re going to read the body language in such a way that they figure out what happened. You know, there’s, it happens. I, I think the other thing from a retention standpoint and re-recruiting that people tend to forget is that retention really starts before you even extended the offer to the employee in the first place. It’s like I often get asked by folks, you know, I’ve got this new employee starting next Monday, you know, what should the onboarding process look like? How should I do it? And I say, Well, you’ve already started the onboarding process. You just don’t realize it.

You’ve already started to work on retention just in the way that you communicate during the interview process and the conversations that you’re having to recruit them and, and frankly, a lot of employers, not just in the agency space, forget that that’s, that it is, it is recruitment for a reason.

You are selling that individual on your agency and so the promises that you’re making during that recruiting process, you need to follow through on. And oftentimes we end up, you know, having these very rosy conversations with employees, with clients, all those folks, until you actually have to start doing stuff, and then you’re like, Oh, well we can’t quite actually do that.

You know, you’re, we told you there’d be work life balance, but what we really meant was that we’d let you stop work at some point every day.

Gini Dietrich: At some point.

Chip Griffin: You know, and, and so, so you need to think about those things from the beginning because you’re setting the tone there. Frankly, the way that you talk about previous employees during that process, Right? If you say, Hey, you know, we’re, we’re looking to bring you on, because the last person was just a total lemon, right? The more time you spend badmouthing former staff during that recruitment process, that’s gonna stick in the back of the minds of the folks that you’re recruiting. And so you need to, to really consider all of your communications with the employees throughout their entire life cycle of conversations with you.

Patrick Rogan: Yeah, and I would just add one more thing since we’re talking about the beginning of the process now, that I try and remind my clients again and again and again. Not everybody wants to come work for you, so make sure you spend some time understanding what that potential employee’s motivations and drives and, and what are things that they’re looking for.

Because if you, to your point Chip, if you start that at the very beginning of the process, you’ve set a precedent that you can continue the whole way through. And in terms of re-recruiting, you’re right. That’s, that’s where it starts right there in that conversation.

Chip Griffin: So, I mean, you know, we talked about salary increases, and some of the, the requests that, that we’re seeing made. I referenced work-life balance and that you get to, to end the day at some point. I, you know, I think one of the frustrations that a lot of employees have is they feel like they’re overworked and underpaid. Whether that’s true or not, I think that’s a perception by a lot of folks in the agency space.

And part of that is because agencies tend to price incorrectly. And so to me, when we’re thinking about retention, we also have to think about our pricing and making sure that we’re getting that right. Because part of the reason why we can’t pay as much as we would like, and we have to have people work more hours than they want or should is because we haven’t gotten our prices right. And so we’re basically balancing our books on the backs of our teams. And so if you really wanna solve that problem, you need to, to figure out how you price for what you actually need and what the, the marketplace really is and not what you have in your mind.

Well, this is all someone can afford and so this is what I’m gonna charge. And so you need to, to look at those salary requests and say, Is that $40,000 increase, is it reasonable from a marketplace perspective? And I just haven’t been there because I haven’t had the budget to give it to them. Or is this just an astronomical request that would make them, you know, the highest paid account executive in the history of small agencies?

Right, Because it cuts both ways. I mean, there are certainly, I have certainly had people come to me with salary requests that are just laughably high for the role that they’re in, right? And, and it, you know, even if I had the money, I wouldn’t pay it because it’s just the value isn’t there. But there are other cases where, yeah, it probably is fair for what they’re actually doing.

And so I need to figure out, you know, can I find a way to make that work financially? And usually that comes back to pricing.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, for sure. I totally agree with that. And you know, Chip, you and I have spent a great deal of time on that, on the Agency Leadership Podcast because most agency owners don’t price correctly.

But I also think there is something to be said for really understanding what the market bears, You know, if somebody’s asking for a $40,000 raise, is that putting them $40,000 above where they could go, go and get anything else, or are they gonna have to take a pay decrease to go somewhere else? Those are, I think, considerations as well.

Because that may be one way to, to retain is you pay them more than market value and they don’t go anywhere.

Chip Griffin: Right. But, but we also have to keep in mind that sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes when employees come to us with these unreasonable salary requests, it’s really a proxy for them wanting to leave anyway.

And, and so it just makes it easier for them instead of saying, Gini, I just don’t like working for you anymore. They can say, You, you couldn’t meet my salary requirement. So…you know, it’s very much like when you hear a prospect say, I don’t have the budget for you. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

But it’s an easy way to exit the conversation and avoid that difficult conversation. It’s the same for employees in some cases. They may be using it as, as their way out. So you, you really do need to look at the, the salary requests and say, Is this reasonable for what I’m trying to achieve? And, and if not, then you can’t give into it because otherwise you will spiral your salary structure out of control.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, for sure.

Chip Griffin: No matter how good they are. I mean, even if they are your top employee, which, which then brings us to, Okay. I mean, let’s say that your top employee has come to you and has asked for a $40,000 raise, and you’d really like to do it, but you just can’t. And so now that employee moves on, or, you know, well, let’s, let’s deal with that scenario first.

We’ve got someone who decides to move on for whatever reason, they’re a rockstar employee. How do we deal with the reaction of the rest of the team to this? And, and for, for the moment, let’s focus on voluntary departures, and then we’ll talk about involuntary after that.

Patrick Rogan: Well, why don’t we take a, just a, can we take a one more little step back in terms of how do we respond to, to that employee?

Because lots of times what I hear is a key employee has decided to leave. Find a way to keep that employee here. And I always kind of push back and say, Well, wait a minute. If they’ve decided to leave and you convince them to stay, My experience tells me they’re gonna end up leaving eventually anyway.

Right. So I’m kind of in the camp of if someone has made the decision to leave, Let them go. There’s always exceptions, but not too many. So I would, I would kind of say, let’s go, let’s go beyond that and say, I accept your resignation. Let’s talk about transition. But to your question specifically, Chip…

Chip Griffin: Well let’s actually, let’s, now that you’ve raised that, let’s, let’s stick with that,

Patrick Rogan: I opened it up.

Chip Griffin: Because that, that is an incredibly important point and, and I think that we would be doing ourselves a disservice for the topic that we’re talking about if we didn’t address that. Because it is the instinct of many managers, employers, owners, to say, You know, let’s make a deal. How can we get you to stay? And it is because of this fear of having to go out and recruit, particularly to replace a rock star.

Sure. But, but I am absolutely in, in your camp Patrick, if someone tells me they want to go, I want to make it as easy as possible for them to leave. The only – and you mentioned possible exceptions. I, I think the only exception is, If for some reason you need to try to bridge a gap for a few months.

Right? Because if you know, so if you can get them to, to stay for a little bit longer, right? Particularly if they, maybe in some cases someone will leave without something specific lined up. And if you can say to them, Hey, you know, can we get you to stay, stick around for another, three or six months or you know, can we get you to do a, a consulting arrangement for a few months to sort of smooth the transition?

I think some of those things are fine, but as soon as someone has told you they want to leave, they’re going to leave. Whether you let them leave immediately or you talk them into a little bit more, you’re not gonna get probably more than another six months out of them. So, so be realistic about that because otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for a world of heartbreak when they come and say, Nah, I’m serious this time.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, this time, you can’t talk me out of it this time.

Patrick Rogan: Yeah. And actually you’re making a decision out of desperation. And making a decision out of desperation almost never ends well. It’s kind of like telling a lie. You tell a lie and then you’ve got to remember the lie you told and then all of a sudden there are discussing things. It’s just like that.

Let the employee go. Focus on what you need to do for business continuity. Look at other problems that you have. There’s a whole host of things that you should be spending your time on that are much more strategic to your organization then keeping a key person you just wish hadn’t decided to leave.

Chip Griffin: All right, so the, the rockstar says they’re leaving. We, we make it a smooth and and comfortable process for them. Now what?

Gini Dietrich: Now the team freaks out. What do you do about that?

Patrick Rogan: Yeah. Yeah. And that frequently happens, right? All of a sudden, like people who were happy in their roles are now questioning if they should be happy or not.

Because someone who they respected and looked up to has decided to leave and they probably don’t know why that person decided to leave. Who knows? So all of a sudden you’ve got a fairly rancid situation that you really wanna get in front of. And I think the first thing I usually recommend that we do is have some conversations.

You know, this is our plan going forward. You know, we’re really sorry to see this person go, but we’re gonna be fine and this is how we’re gonna be fine. And this is what I’m gonna ask of you. Keep in mind like when someone leaves, particularly in a higher level position, you may have someone that you’ve been grooming.

And that’s gonna be a promotion opportunity. And this could be a very good story. And you have the ability to demonstrate leadership by not freaking out in a tough situation, showing everyone there is a plan, seeing it in your face. And letting them understand this happens in business.

You haven’t seen it happen here before because we’re relatively new. There’s a process for this. We’re managing the process and we’re gonna be just fine.

Gini Dietrich: I think having the plan is the, the key point because I have, in my experience, I have seen it go both ways. I’ve seen key employees in, especially at client organizations, key employees leave and the team freaks out because it’s somebody they adored and they enjoyed working with and they got great coaching and mentorship from that person.

And there has been no plan presented. So exec, the executive team has said they’re leaving. We don’t really know what to do, um, we’ll get back to you. And that’s when everybody sort of aaah! And they, they follow usually. But when I think that the, having the plan is the really key component to it. So you cannot, absolutely cannot go from the meeting where the employee has resigned and immediately tell your team, because you have to have some time to, to both build a transition plan with that key employee and build the plan post-transition so that your team knows what’s happening.

If you do that in my experience, most people are like, Okay, this sucks. I really hate it, but this plan sounds solid. I want to make sure that, you know, I still have my job and all those kinds of things. I don’t have to go look for a new job or follow this person. I can actually trust that my, my leader here is going to take care of me.

And that’s the key point, is having that plan before you announce it.

Chip Griffin: I would say yes, but… so I…my objection to that is that I think that a lot of folks wait too long to tell their team that someone is leaving for the very reason that that you’ve outlined. Because they say to themselves, I don’t have my plan fully in place, and until I do, I don’t wanna say anything.

The problem with that is that word gets out very quickly within the team that someone is leaving and you want that news to come from you. So, so by all means, don’t walk straight out of the meeting. Because first of all, you’re probably emotional after hearing that. Right, Right. Even if you don’t want to admit that.

And so, you know, you’re frustrated because now you’ve got another thing on your plate. You didn’t have enough time in the day to deal with everything that was already on your to-do list. And now you gotta deal with recruiting for this rockstar’s replacement. But you, you can’t wait too long. And if you don’t have every part of the plan in place, that’s fine, but tell them what the plan is to plan at least.

Right. And, and, and make sure that you’re being clear that you will integrate them into that process. That this is not gonna be just chaos. But I think the other thing that, that Patrick, you mentioned is the, the idea of it’s an opportunity for other people to step up. It’s an opportunity for others to step up if you’ve done what you need to do.

Right. Right. To, to mentor, coach, and groom your juniors to move up. You, you can’t just – A lot of times folks wait until the vacancy happens and then they say, Now I need to figure out who on the team can step up. Think about that well in advance. Have those plans in place. Give your team members the tools that they need to continue to improve their skills.

Because guess what? That helps you when someone leaves. But it also helps you with retention because you’re showing you’re caring about that employee’s future and you’re not just trying to, you know, grab as many hours from them as you can get today. You’re actually thinking about their own career progression and where they might fit within your agency in the future.

Patrick Rogan: I think it’s fine to say, Look, I want you to step into a stretch role, but that conversation, to your point, Chip needs to be preceded with, Hey, we’ve talked about your career progression before and we’ve talked about where you want to grow, and we have an opportunity that’s popped up maybe a little bit earlier that I would’ve anticipated, but this would be a stretch opportunity for you.

Let’s talk about how we can make this work. Versus what I frequently see is, Hey, guess what? You’re getting a promotion. You’re pretty much, pretty much guaranteeing that Peter principle’s gonna happen. You know, you’re forcing failure. Right? Right. The probability of success, almost zero. You know? I see that happen a lot.

Chip Griffin: And, and, and also if it’s a temporary promotion, make clear it’s a temporary promotion. Right. Because I’ve, I’ve also seen the scenario where they say, Okay, well so and so has left. I need you to step up and, and run things. If someone doesn’t understand that that’s, you know, it’s on a temporary basis, maybe it’s a, you know, on a prove yourself basis, you know, it’s a stretch, you know, but let’s, let’s see if it works or whatever, that’s fine.

But you don’t ever wanna let someone assume that they’re now gonna be running this team. And yet you’re still out recruiting for replacement for that rockstar because now you’ve got, you’ve had that double whammy where you have that person, you know, think they’ve got something and now you’ve knocked them back down.

So they had their rockstar mentor perhaps leave. Right. They saw an opportunity and now you slap them back down. So, So really be clear in your communications about, again, this goes back to sharing what you do and don’t know. You might say, Hey, I, you know, I don’t know exactly how we’re gonna solve this. For now, I’d like you to step up and run the team and let’s see where it goes from there. Be honest, you’re, you’re in much better shape if you’re honest with your team members in the communications than if you allow them to make assumptions and you just don’t say anything because you’re not really sure.

Patrick Rogan: Yeah, I think that’s key.

A number of times I’ve seen situations where we have someone in the interim role, someone’s brought in from the outside. The outside person becomes a part of the organization and they’re doing their job and they’ve hit their potential, and all of a sudden you realize, wow, the person in the interim role was really better.

Yeah. Well, I always say, Look, if you’re gonna do that, do it. Give it a period of time, unless it’s a way, way out of the park stretch, give it a little bit of time and then make the decision if you’re gonna potentially go outside or not. But to your point, you have to be very open and honest about that because that position, if, if you see the position you’re in, which you think might lead to a full-time position posted somewhere, you pretty much, you know, that’s a horrible way to find out that you’re not being considered for the full-time position.

Gini Dietrich: It just happened to my sister .

Patrick Rogan: Really?

Gini Dietrich: Very thing. Yeah. She was like, huh. I was like, okay, but to be fair you were looking for a new job, and then you found this. So it goes both ways, but yeah. So yeah.

Chip Griffin: So, we’ve talked about voluntary departure and how that can, you know, cause other, you know, spill over domino retention issues. Let’s talk about involuntary departures. One of my favorite topics.

Gini Dietrich: It is one of your favorite topics.

Chip Griffin: I, I know I get gleeful when I talk about this, and I, I’m sorry.

But it just, it is. So, so you terminate somebody, Right. How do we communicate that in a way that we can assist with retention and what do, what maybe, what different things do we need to be thinking about in that scenario versus when the rockstar chooses to go on to a great opportunity.

Patrick Rogan: Well, I would say first off, we have an opportunity with that situation to plan – generally – to plan ahead a little bit unless there is some gross insubordination or something.

So we do actually have a little, you know, this one doesn’t pop up on us like the other example. And I think it’s important to, to take that time and, and use it wisely. I think getting everyone together to have a conversation is usually a good first step in that process. And, and prepare for that as well too.

You know, it’s the, it’s just like losing a key client. When you face a struggle and you demonstrate to your staff that you have a plan to get through, you are demonstrating the character of your company and yourself. And I think seeing in your eyes, that there is a plan and this is what it is going to be.

Maybe someone’s going to potentially get promoted or get an opportunity. Some other roles are gonna change. I mean, more often than not, when there’s that type of change, there are a whole host of cascading internal opportunities that pop up. And if that’s what you focus on in that communication, all of a sudden employees are gonna be like, Well, wait a minute.

We’re not going out of business tomorrow. There may be some opportunity for me and other people as well too. And by the way, when one position leaves, it doesn’t necessarily have to be replaced with another person. Like there could be parts of three other people that could do that role and you could be fine and all of a sudden you’ve been paying way too much in payroll.

So there are other opportunities I think you should think about when, when that happens that could definitely impact the bottom line.

Gini Dietrich: So this one is really stressful for me as an agency owner. Because there are times when somebody is fired for cause and you’re not allowed to talk about it. And for me that’s always challenging because I try to, you know, one of the things I learned through the Great Recession is to be as honest and open and communicate as much as you can up front with your team. Because they respect that and you know, and certainly they don’t feel like you’re hiding things. But when you have a situation where you’ve fired somebody for cause and you’re not allowed to talk about it for HR or legal reasons, that one becomes a lot more challenging.

So how do you handle that? Especially for somebody who wants to be open and wants to be able to say, Gosh guys, this is what happened and we had to let them go because this, this, and this and you can’t do that. So that, that’s a real challenge for me.

Patrick Rogan: It’s hard.

Chip Griffin: Well, I, and I would also say that even when you’re not necessarily, you know, legally or regulatorily constricted in what you can say, you still shouldn’t say very much.

You know, you should simply say that, you know, so, so and so’s last day is this, and start talking more about the plan. Honestly, more often than not, the rest of the team either knows or has an inkling about what was going on. If it’s, if it’s not for cause and it’s for, you know, performance, they almost certainly know. And usually respect you more. Right? For sure. Because I agree with that. We, we’ve been covering for this person all along, right? In the rare occasion where it’s something for cause that’s completely out of the blue that is, you know, sometimes not even necessarily directly related to their work, those are trickier because that can be something that the rest of the team doesn’t know, and doesn’t even have an inkling about. I, you know, I, I still think though, that, that if you sort of follow the same process in all of your terminations, that helps. Right. So, so that way you don’t really have to get into the, Well, this one was different, right?

Because if they, if they read from you that this one was different, then they’re gonna be even more curious and they’re gonna be like, Oh, right, right. Oh, of course. What, what did Johnny do? Oh. And, and they’re probably gonna be curious anyway. Right. I mean, I know I’ve been in organizations where someone’s terminated and, and immediately, as soon as you find out, everybody’s like, What happened?

Who, who talked to who, what? You know, what do you know? It happens. So, You know, but, but I think to me, the, the key is you don’t dwell on on why someone has left. You dwell on, you know, where are we going from here? And you encourage your team to focus that way. It doesn’t mean that they’re not still gonna gossip, but the more that you can focus them on, you know, that future point in time and what you’re doing to get there, I think that’s gonna be helpful and, and to the point of, you know, that you don’t necessarily have to have one for one replacements.

That’s true. Whether it’s a rockstar or whether it’s an underperformer. And so, you know, I all have, every time I’ve had someone leave my organization willingly or unwillingly, I’ve always said to the rest of the team, Look, this is an opportunity for us to rethink how we do things, right? And so, so I’m looking for your feedback on how should we structure going forward, you know, what are the, you know, what should we be looking for in a replacement and, and really, you know, change it from a loss to an unfortunate opportunity to improve and to change things. So, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re sorry we got to this point for whatever reason, but hey, it opens up the potential for new doors that we can go through, and so let’s, let’s focus on those and, and that will typically, in my experience, help with retaining that team so that they don’t all follow that other person out the door and start shipping their resumes off the next day.

Patrick Rogan: More often than not, the, the response that I typically see in staff with an involuntary termination communication is what took you so long.

Gini Dietrich: That’s fair. You’re right. You’re right. We’ve been waiting for this for six months. Come on. You’re right. You’re right.

Chip Griffin: Yep. Cause it’s, I mean, a termination for performance is always a lagging indicator, right?

Yep. Right. I mean the team knows. The boss knows. That’s why anytime an agency owner comes to me and says, You know, I’m, I’m trying to decide whether I should let So-and-so go, I’m like, Yes, you should. Yes, you’re right. But, but I haven’t even told you what they – I don’t care. Yeah. Right. You’re thinking about it.

You’re right. You should have done it three, six months ago, easily, if not longer.

Patrick Rogan: But I tend to see two, two examples. I have some agencies where they just take forever to make the decision and that doesn’t make them look really good. Like people are like, Why can’t you make a decision? But then there are other situations, same time period, and everyone sees that maybe there have been tweaks to the role, maybe we can change a role a little bit.

Maybe there was some additional training and in that case it’s like, wow, they did everything they could to make this work. So maybe they’ll do that for me too. Very same time period, but very different actions and very different perceptions with your employee populations as well too. So I think that’s important to know.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, and never terminate based on emotion. Right. You know, if you’re angry at an employee, just take a deep breath, wait a day, then deal with it.

Patrick Rogan: And never a Friday or a Thursday. Never a Friday, Right. Monday’s the best day. Cause think about it. You’re getting that news. I’m getting news.

My position’s gone away. Yes. And it’s Friday. Yes. And it’s Friday. Who am I gonna call? It’s the weekend.

Chip Griffin: Well, and, and as importantly, you give your team too much time to stew on it over the weekend and so, you know. Yep. You don’t want the team to find out on a Friday so that you know you want to, to give them a night to think about it.

You know, but then come back and ask the questions of you the next day. Or, you know, you kind of get some of their concerns out rather than giving them, you know, 72 hours to, to ponder it and come up with the worst case scenario and show up on, on Monday. Assuming that the whole business is gonna collapse and right.

And, but in the meantime, they’re gonna have to work a hundred hour weeks, and they’re gonna take a pay cut and all that. Because employees like to go to the worst case scenario.

Patrick Rogan: Yep, for sure.

Chip Griffin: When given the opportunity, don’t let them do that.

Patrick Rogan: Yes, Totally agree.

Chip Griffin: So, so with that, we’ve, we’ve actually run over on our time today, but I think it’s a, a useful topic.

So, you know, hopefully we stacked up the dominoes in a way that is winning. I don’t know. I’ve never played dominoes.

Gini Dietrich: It’s really terrible though.

Patrick Rogan: Yeah, I just looked at the clock and I was like, We, we must be like about halfway through. I was like, No, nope.

Chip Griffin: Nope, nope, nope. We, we’ve managed to blather on right, right past that 30 minute time that I, that I try to stick to.

But before we wrap up, if someone would like to contact one of you for more information, I’m gonna let you give your little plug in your URL and all that kind of stuff. So, Patrick, take it away first. Where can people find you?

Patrick Rogan: Sure. My firm is Ignition HR, so if you go to ignitionhr.com, click the button. We’ll set us up for a 15 minute call, real easy.

Chip Griffin: Excellent. And Gini, where should they go for you?

Gini Dietrich: Spinsucks.com.

Chip Griffin: Easy peasy. See, I like that. Easy peasy. Nice easy outros here where we, we, we cover all the bases in just seconds. If you’re interested in watching previous episodes of this show, the Agency Leadership Podcast, or all sorts of other stuff, go to smallagency.tv.

And if you’d like to learn more about SAGA, just go to small agency growth.com. With that, that wraps up this issue. This issue? This episode. It doesn’t wrap up this issue. You’re still gonna be dealing with this, folks. You still are gonna have retention issues no matter what. This, this episode did not solve it, but this episode is concluded.

We’re gonna head in. Have a great weekend, everybody, and we will see you back here next week.

Patrick Rogan: Bye.

Gini Dietrich: Bye.

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