Russell Guynes: The Real Reason Your Best Employee Resigned

by Katie Sloan

As their manager, you say, “Why didn’t you let me know earlier?” when one of your top employees has decided to resign and turn in their two week notice. They answer your questions and provide a reason which puts no fault to you when they state, “it is an incredible opportunity, I just couldn’t turn down,” but is that the real reason?

Russell Guynes, president with Gill-Mac Partners, has been an executive recruiter for over 19 years with the last 10 years being instrumental in recruiting and placing top-level leadership talent within the student housing industry. Through this experience, he has developed insight into the real reasons why top employees are motivated to consider a change.

An individual’s employment, outlook on their situation and decisions can be in direct relation and compared to that of a top rated student housing business (the employer). The employee’s career goals, plan, decisions and approach should match their employer’s business goals, plan, decisions and approach. Below are top rated employees’ top five reasons for considering a change within the student housing industry:

  1. Opportunity for continued growth: top talent is driven to succeed and grow their career long-term. If the company or position becomes static for any length of time (typically two to three years of limited change for mid management, three to five years for senior management and seven to nine years for executive management) this caliber of candidate will be motivated to consider a change and will have the opportunity to make a change. Similarly, highly successful student housing businesses are driven to succeed and are not static for any significant length of time.
  2. Exposure and adding value to their career: top talent is goal oriented and has a career plan. Their career is an asset that is managed as a business plan. This career business plan and asset should be increasing in value through exposure to new experiences. Student housing in itself is a niche — and a very important niche — that is dynamic and ever changing in order to increase its value and keep up with the curve. A student housing employee’s career is similar. We hear the following statement often, “my employer sees me as an expert in a finite niche, I am the best at it, and therefore, I am ‘pigeon holed’ doing the same thing over and over. My career isn’t dynamic or changing, thus, I am no longer adding value to my career.” This employee will seek a change where they can leverage this expertise towards something greater.
  3. Value recognition and visibility: top talent provides value to the business and this value and performance should be recognized through appreciation by senior leadership. Rewards through compensation and bonuses are important and great, but keep in mind top rated talent isn’t motivated by money alone… They do not stay nor do they leave for money. This level of employee wants to be visible and have perceived value where their impact is appreciated and recognized through an employer’s actions and words. This includes the business and its leadership, not just the employee’s direct manager. If an employee doesn’t feel they are contributing or valuable, they are already motivated to consider a change. Likewise, a top performing student housing firm who provides value to its investors/stakeholders and customers (vendors and tenants), is and wants to be recognized for its performance and value.
  4. Company culture & quality of life: top talent has a high level of emotional intelligence; they are personable, responsible, active (inside and outside work) and honest, with an optimistic approach to their work and life. Does your firm and leaders in the firm have the same approach and priorities towards the business, the stakeholders, customers and employees? This isn’t about having fun all the time at the work place — the fad of ping pong, video games, tennis courts and coming to work when you want are well on their way out. It’s about enjoying the people you work with, being passionate, having things in common, team, eagerness to get things accomplished, production and hard work. It’s about, collaboration and accountability of each individual towards the common good of something greater. Top performing firms and business units possess all of these qualities and that is why they are at the top. Similarly, top rated employees believe in and practice all of these beliefs — that is why they are top rated. If there is no or poor culture and limited quality of life inside or outside work, then that top performing employee has already left their employer or is already considering to make a move.
  5. Pride: top talent is proud of and has a heightened sense of awareness towards what and who represents them as well as who and what they represent. They are very proud of their work: who they work for (company and leadership), what they work on (assets, deals, projects and properties) and who they work with (leadership, partners, customer and their team). Respect and reputation is critical. This isn’t about big or small, old or new, or A, B, C or D — it’s about quality, doing the right thing and performance. As with your best employees or your toughest student housing competitor, they are both focused on high quality, integrity and performance that will result in the utmost respect, return and reputation.

Student housing is a very close industry network and a situation where most names are recognized. As such, you may question what your competition may be doing to retain and/or recruit the best of the best. Keep in mind, your best employee, in any function, is in extremely high demand. This caliber of talent is and should be in a “good” situation but the question is, are they and is their career in the best situation given their experience level and environment? As a long standing executive search firm in the student housing industry, our experience shows us that it is very difficult for us, as a recruiter, to attract and recruit high demand talent when they respond with the following:

  • I love where I work and who I work with
  • I provide significant value that is recognized
  • My career has long-term growth potential and I am making more money than I have ever made.
  • The next three to five years are marked with continued promise.

What do your employees and senior leadership team say during an external recruiting conversation and courtship?

— Russell Guynes, President, with Gill-Mac Partners, Inc. has been an executive recruiter for over 19 years with the last 10 years being instrumental in recruiting and placing top-level leadership talent within the student housing industry. Gill-Mac Partners, Inc. is a national executive search firm with in-depth knowledge of and expertise across all student housing business functions, partnering with firms who own, develop, acquire, build and/or manage student housing real estate.

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