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Nearly a hundred years ago, it is said that Henry Ford was magnanimous when he rolled out his Model T car. “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black. ” he said.

In today’s world, we as consumers have more choice than ever before. Likewise, today’s employees – and in particular top quality talent- have more options than ever before. Booming economies give them more opportunities than before. If the skills they possess are in short supply and they are not truly engaged, talented employees will vote with their feet and walk out.

How do we minimize the impact of employee attrition? I say minimize because it is simply not practical to have no attrition at all. I agree fully with a school of thought which holds that that a certain amount of attrition is indeed desirable in an organization.

For want of any better matrix, attrition has come to be computed in percentage terms. “Company ABC has 18 % attrition “we say or “The industry averages for that job is about 20 %. ” Like any other statistical data, this representation can be misleading. It means one thing for a firm having 50 people to have 20 % attrition. It means quite some thing else for an organization having 25,000 people.

To my mind, what matters more is not how many people have left but who has left. As busy managers we are responsible for the development and performance of all our team members. However, effective managers know just how important it is to get the best out of those few team members who are exceptional. It is their contributions that lifts the performance of their teams.

While we must treat every team member with professional respect, do devise almost tailor-made leadership styles to suit the needs of your star performers. They may require less supervision from you. They may want more independence in carrying out their responsibilities. Work out a leadership style which they respond best to. Having these top performers engaged is more valuable to you, your team and your organization than having a low attrition percentage amongst weaker performers.

The widely read management guru, David Maister says “Great managers give lots of responsibility early, are available to help, set and enforce high standards( on things other than just financial results), demand participation by all team members and set a high personal example.”

Follow his advice and you will not find your team voting with their feet.

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