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Is a mass exodus at your company a blessing or curse?

A Mass Exodus can be any business leader’s worst nightmare. But should it be? Here are a few pros and cons to consider if you are faced with the threat of losing a large chunk of your human capital.

mass exodus

mass exodus

Taking a meaningful look at a mass exodus

A mass exodus in any industry or country can pose a debilitating threat to the management team left behind in its wake. There are often warning signs that surface prior to any large group leaving a company and often, managers overlook these warning signs. Murmurs or rumors of people planning to leave, aggressive competition moving in, lack of internal promotion and changes of executive leadership all signal precursors to a mass exodus.

But once a mass exodus occurs, how a management team picks up the pieces and moves on is what determines success or failure. Here are some general cons and pros.

Cons of a mass exodus

Lack of consistency – having to spend the time and money training a new workforce can be a drain financially and mentally/emotionally on those left behind. In addition, those who are still there could be battling inklings of leaving themselves, thus inhibiting productivity.

Lack of knowledge transfer – many who participate in mass exoduses plan to leave their previous employers in a worse state than before, taking key proprietary information before backups and SOPs (standard operating procedures), QRGs (quick reference guides) or playbooks were written to document this information. Tell-tell signs of a planned mass exodus can be seen by your IT department: deletion of key files, movement of data from hard drives to external drives, etc.

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Depletion of morale – this is a no brainer. When folks leave, the entire morale of the office changes…usually for the worse.

Pros of a mass exodus

New blood, new thought – Those who participate in a mass exodus were occupying positions that could have been for employees who had intentions of staying longer and investing in the company. I’ve seen, more often than not, that the employees who leave mass exodus style were itching to leave for some time and management wanted them gone, but there was not documented proof for terminating the employee with cause nor had another opportunity presented itself. Companies must evolve and grow. Getting new eyes in (and old eyes out) is like pruning the proverbial tree.

Opportunity for true training and group onboarding – Often the most overlooked benefit is a chance for management to adjust course, hire new people and roll out a new standardized mission and vision for the company. This allows for true onboarding for all employees. Think of it as a way to “mass indoctrinate” your employees.

Advancement opportunities may arise – A mass exodus separates the wheat from the chaff. It shows who’s willing to stay, whether through obligation or choice. This allows management to see current employees in a new light and provide advancement opportunities to those that might have been overlooked before.

Surviving a mass exodus

If a company’s leadership team views the exodus as a positive, rejuvenating experience for the business, then all signs point to success. The corollary is also true, if the exodus is seen as a huge negative, insurmountable experience then the company is probably headed for failure. The biggest reason a mass exodus is a nightmare is because, more often than not, they are unanticipated surprises.

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Any manager should have two things in their front pocket: an exit strategy and a pipeline of talent to occupy each position that reports to them. Ways to mitigate the potential threat of a mass exodus include leveraging technology and using shared server storage or a cloud. In this way, data is easily retrieved by those who have left. Lastly, have your teams design and write SOPs, QRGs and Playbooks. These will be your saving graces in the event your best and brightest pack up and hit the road unexpectedly.

Written By

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

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