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I heard a disturbing — yet all too common — story while I was at GenJuice DC last week.

I was speaking with a former intern of a household name computer processor company. He told me that, when he worked there, one of his full-time colleagues wasn’t really a morning person and therefore requested a flexible schedule so he would be putting in his 8 hours only during his peak performance time during the day. This colleague was apparently very good at his job, so the former intern was incredibly surprised when the unnamed computer processor company told him “no.”

The result? The colleague quit. Not only did he quit, but also he started a company that competed with the particular division of his former employer. Not only did he quit and start a competing organization, but also he took a dozen or so of his colleagues with him to help run the new company.

Just to replace the colleague, the computer processing company had to hire 3 people. They also, of course, had to replace the dozen or so other defectors.

The final result? The new company started by the colleague and his co-workers quickly put the computer processor company’s division out of work — it no longer exists. All over starting work a few hours later and staying a few hours longer to make up for it. Stupid.

Losing employees costs money. In this situation, it obviously cost the computer processor company money because they had to replace 1 individual with 3. The salary and benefits alone add up. But also consider that employee turnover cost ranges between 30 and 50 percent of the individual’s annual base salary. Plus, at the end of the day, the company did so poorly financially it had to shut down an entire division — OVER FLEXIBLE HOURS.

Wake-up employers: The workplace has changed. The 9-to-5 is no longer a viable model in many industries. And if someone can complete his/her job while telecommuting, consider it — you’ll likely save the environment and money.

Oh, and employees now know just how replaceable they are. This recession has taught them that. As a result, they are always looking for the next best thing. If you really want to attract and retain top talent — and I mean really, really want to — then you should let your team know just how irreplaceable they are. Think back to why you hired them in the first place. It wasn’t just because they were a warm body — there will always be plenty of those. It was because they brought a unique set of skills and qualifications to the position and your organization — and they still do.

Or, you can consider thinking of them as replaceable, and they’ll leave the second another opportunity comes along. Your choice.

I would like to dedicate this post to the always hard-working team at Come Recommended. You are definitely not replaceable, and if there’s any way to make your experience working for my organization better, please let me know.

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