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May 15, 2024

Turnover Triggers: Talent Retention After Leadership Transition

Post By:
Lisa Rigoli
In-House Contributor
Leadership Coach & HR Consultant
Element of Change
Guest Contributor:

According to Brandon Hall Group, 92% of organizations agree that top talent could leave at any minute. Yet, 73% of leaders are not prepared to deal with these changes, Gartner found in a survey. 

In 2022, I received the dreaded phone call that my supervisor was leaving. I understood that my supervisor did what they felt was best for themselves, their career and their family. At the same time, it made me wonder the same for myself. And that shook me.

What would be my next right step after my leader left? 

A year prior, I received a job offer that I turned down because of my relationship with my leader. Now that they were leaving, I questioned whether I should leave as well, even though I didn't have a job lined up. 

This is a common scenario for many companies and their teams. Stabilizing talent becomes a significant challenge when leaders depart after receiving their annual performance development review cash-outs. Here’s the ripple effect this challenge causes. 

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Without a backfill plan in place, we faced a risk of premature internal promotions. 

Let’s refer to my personal example in the scenario I shared above. With no leader prepared to step in, the interim supervisor would feel pressured to promote someone prematurely, as recent performance reviews revealed a lack of readiness among potential candidates to assume the responsibilities of my market. 

I also began questioning whether my time would reset with the arrival of this new leader. 

They would be unfamiliar with my contributions to this market over the past five years. I wondered if their responsibilities would be added to mine, as they transition – which made me wonder if I could handle the increased workload effectively.

This common scenario was the topic of discussion at our February virtual leadership forum where we dug into how to retain and stabilize teams that are affected by a leader’s departure.

Senior Leaders & HR Partners — including representatives from various industries such as a senior leader from a top consulting firm and a COO from the healthcare space — joined me to discuss this topic and learn solutions that can make their organizations stronger.

*Did you miss this month’s forum? Sign up here to stay in the loop for all of our exclusive upcoming forums with insights and discussions tailored to senior leaders and HR partners.

This common challenge is a real threat not only to the work you put into develop your team, but also a threat to your bottom line, with anticipated turnover costs for recruiting, training and more. In fact, senior or executive level employees have a disproportionately high turnover cost for companies, of up to 213% of their annual salary, according to the Center for American Progress. That’s a major chunk of change – and that’s just for the leader. We haven’t even factored the cost of turnover for the people who report to them.

At Element of Change, we believe that recognizing these challenges is the first step towards identifying areas for improvement in your approach to leadership continuity.

To effectively identify these challenges, follow these steps:

1. Look for signs of a high turnover rate among leaders, such as abrupt departures without another job lined up or leaving within 90 days of a new supervisor taking charge.

2. Assess the difficulty in succession planning, especially if there are concerns about promoting leaders who may be deemed unfit in recent talent reviews.

3. Pay attention to indicators of decreased employee morale and engagement, such as common phrases like “now my clock has to restart” or “now they will expect us to do more with less.”

By recognizing these signs, you and your team can identify areas for improvement in your approach to leadership continuity. You can also implement strategies to foster stability, consistency, and effective leadership transition within your organization.

If you're interested in continuing discussions on topics like this, we invite you to join our upcoming virtual forums where you can gain insights and participate in discussions tailored to senior leaders and HR partners. If you can’t join us live, you can always catch the recap following each session.  Sign up here  

Brandon Hall Group. (2023, August). Cultural Attributes That Impact Retention In High-Performing Organizations. Retrieved from URL

Gartner. (2023, October). Where HR Will Focus in 2024. Retrieved from URL

Center for American Progress. (2012, November). There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees. Retrieved from URL