Q My company has recently been hit by massive poaching of key staff and I feel this will soon hurt the morale of the remaining employees. How can I keep the remaining workers motivated?
In the late 80s and early 90s, a large number of people were leaving Kenya in search of greener pastures in America and Europe. Many doctors and nurses left The Nairobi Hospital and we at the facility were faced by a major staffing crisis. As soon as we graduated and trained nurses, they were, to put it in your words poached by the Europeans and Americans.
In one of our crisis meetings, a board member turned the crisis on its head and suggested that we should not be worried about losing nurses to the first world. He suggested that the world was telling us that we had excellent skills in training nurses and that our training programmes were world standard. This was truly positive thinking.
We continued to train (and lose) many nurses, but we stood firm in the knowledge that our staff were, on all accounts world class. That realisation enabled us turn a negative experience to a positive and to this day, the hospital takes pride in the care given by its home-grown nurses.
As the Kenyan economy has improved, the floodgates of nurse (and doctor) poaching have virtually closed. The poaching was sign of difficult economic times in the country.
In psychology, we come across a number of people for whom negative self talk is the standard norm in their thinking. For such negative thinkers, no cloud has a silver lining. When it rains they see deadly flooding (not a season to plant).
When one coughs they see lung cancer not a mild cold. When a child falls they see a broken neck not a dusty growing child! An example will illustrate this type of thinking.
While waiting for her boyfriend, a young woman who had very low self confidence was hit by a mental crisis. True, the boyfriend had sent a text on time to say he was running 15 minutes late, but in her mind, the true reason was he was late was because he no longer loved her, and was late because he was spending the 15 minutes with the other girl.
The girl in her mind was an old school mate who they had met two weeks earlier at a supermarket and who seemed very excited to see her old classmate. She had told them to expect an invitation to her wedding due in the next three months.
To the girl waiting for her boyfriend who was 15 minutes late, life had changed. The two classmates had begun to meet in secret since the chance meeting in the supermarket. In her insecure mind, the girl had, therefore, broken her engagement and the two were planning “something”. That, in her mind was the reason for the lateness. She was in full panic mode.
By way of evidence that the lateness was due to the “new affair”, the now waiting and anxious girl self talked herself into a frenzy.
She convinced herself that the fact that he sent a text rather than place a call was because at that moment he was in bed with his former classmate.
After all, she argued, his calls to her had in the last two weeks become “somehow different” in a way she could not tell. Finally, she concluded that she was no longer good enough for him because of the blue dress she wore on the day they met the other girl. The 15 minutes of lateness was all the evidence she needed to go home and make an attempt at suicide. A series of increasing negative false assumptions had led her in an act of desperation.
The two stories illustrate different reactions to evidence of adversity. Perhaps the world is telling you that you have a brilliant training ground and that your sales team is world class. In this case what you must do is to make sure you are in a place where you compete with the world in your reward packages to your wonderful staff. It might be helpful to conduct exit interviews with those who plan to leave you.
On the other hand, you might be like the girl with the boyfriend. What you call key staff leaving you are two women who quit. One to go and start a family in Australia, and the other to pursue her PhD in Physics, a matter she had discussed with you at the time of employment five years ago. You had forgotten and are now in a panic because two key staff members have left!
You must take a careful look at the circumstances you now find your company in. Is it really true that they are leaving you because you are bad, or might it be that external factors beyond your control are pushing them to other parts of the world?