And it happened again today.  Two professionals that I know reached out to say that their roles had been eliminated and that they are back on the market.  In an era when almost every organization is an at-will employer, most employees recognize that their “employment can be terminated at any time, for any reason or no reason, with or without notice, or cause.”

This isn’t really a surprise, we’ve all heard this statement before.  Since Toussaint Theory was recognized by the courts in 1980, it has appeared in nearly every handbook, employment application, and offer letter.  As a workforce, people have learned that they need to be prepared for the potential of being suddenly unemployed through no fault of their own.

But what if we didn’t?  As an employer of choice, wouldn’t it be great to say “we’re going to work with you when there are problems?”  Or better yet:  “We selected you for employment here because you are very talented and we won’t fire you unless you give us a good reason to.”  After all, when’s the last time you terminated someone without a good reason?  Great organizations don’t.

Choosing to not be an at-will employer means that you can still fire someone for poor performance, breaking rules, or to lay them off when business is slow.  What it also means is that you won’t fire them without any reason.  It sends the message that you are making a commitment to them, that they have control over their future, and more engagement in their work.  If you do this, you need to make certain that you have an effective performance management program to monitor and provide ongoing feedback on performance.

If we’re serious about building employee engagement, telling our employees that we plan to keep them around is a great place to start.

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