“I just heard about Diane’s resignation, you have to do something.” George started his demands before he was through the door. He relied on Diane as his best process engineer, and the one who all his crews had come to accept as a great trainer.
“Are you asking me to arrange a farewell luncheon? Or perhaps you want to know about the recruiting strategy I’ve been asking you to comment on for four months now.” I respect George a lot, but sometimes I need to poke at him a little.
“Can’t we make a counter offer?” George looked sort of desparate, but he’d been here before, so I was a little surprised.
I tried to give him a little perspective. “What do you appreciate most about Diane?” I asked.
He didn’t hesitate. “She is the most competent process engineer at that level I’ve ever worked with, and my crews can handle problems better than they ever did before she got here. She’s thorough, safety-oriented, and has never made a decision that I took issue with.”
“Exactly right,” I said. “And we are going to respect this decision as well. Remember, when we reached the agreement with the union, we were trying to move more skills to the operators, and we have done just that. We are recruiting new process engineers now, and from what we learned in this process, we are seeking candidates that have the communications and teaching skills that we saw emerge in Diane these last few years. We’ll not only find someone, but were building the bench. Relax.”
George was beginning to see that this was not a crisis situation, and it was also clear to me he hadn’t spoken with Diane since he heard this news.
“Do you know why she is leaving us, George? Her partner got a once-in-a-lifetime-offer that requires they relocate. Otherwise, I might have already made her the offer. You gotta learn to trust your HR friend, my friend.”
I learned to take a step back and recognize where people are making a difference in our organization, and to actively identify the competencies beyond their degrees that help us achieve our goal. George learned (I hope) that HR doesn’t just work at fixing broken things, we sometime design and build better than what we had. Even without his help in reviewing the proposal! He also started to realize that company loyalty is not something we are entitled to. And even when we earn loyalty, we don’t control employees lives.