How to Recognize & Retain Employees Who Want to Leave

How to Recognize & Retain Employees Who Want to Leave

quitting employeeDepending on which survey you believe, a significant number of your employees are ready to jump ship!

  • Korn Ferry’s survey says the number 57.1%
  • CareerBuilder claims it’s 57%
  • pegs that number at 83%

With our local unemployment rate dropping to about 5%, there are more job opportunities and less qualified competition for positions.

This means your company’s top talent may very well be slipping out the door before you know it!

Signs an employee is about to quit:

Rather than just accept that you’re bound to lose your best employees, you can be proactive to retain them. First, you need to know the signs that someone is disengaged and looking for a new position.

I once found an employee’s resume left on the copier. That was a pretty solid sign that she was looking for a new job. Besides something so blatant, though, there are other signs that can be clues to the discontent.

Short-timers syndrome:

“Short-timers syndrome” becomes evident when an employee’s performance and attitude change. Workers in this mindset may:

  • Start coming in late and/or leaving early
  • Avoid taking on new projects
  • Miss deadlines, or turn in sloppy work

Someone who thinks they won’t be there the next time performance reviews roll around cares a lot less about meeting performance goals. They are less likely to offer ideas in meetings, or to commit to long-term projects.

Missing work more often:

Job hunting takes time, and this can mean taking time off. Your employee may suddenly have many doctor appointments, or need frequent days off.

You may also notice that their attire is improved on the days they have an appointment, because they’re dressing better to impress their future employer.

Clues on social media:

While I don’t recommend you stalk your employees on the internet, you may pick up clues on social media or job boards. When I see someone I know improving their LinkedIn profile and adding new recommendations to it, I’m pretty sure they are starting to look for a new job.

When people are looking for jobs, they often become connected to recruiters on social media (but please don’t stalk my profile on the internet either!). You may even find your employee has posted their resume on one of the big job boards, so they can be found by recruiters. It’s hard to keep secrets when you’re active on the internet.

Emotionally checking out:

An employee who has already left the job mentally, although not yet physically, can give off certain vibes. They may be less likely to engage in social or team building events with their co-workers, and especially with their boss and other members of management.

You may find that they shut their door more often for phone calls, or spend more time whispering furtively. Typically, this employee will be quieter and more reserved than usual during the work day.

How to retain workers who are considering quitting:

Once you recognize the signs that a valuable employee is preparing to quit, you need to take proactive steps to intervene and retain them.

Conduct stay interviews:

Stay interviews are a great way to touch base with your top talent. Instead of asking someone on their last day why they’re leaving, periodically ask them:

  • How they are doing
  • What frustrations they might have
  • What’s going well for them
  • If they have any other feedback they can give you

People want to be challenged, make a difference in the company, know there’s a path forward in their career, and be recognized for what they do. Let them know how much you value them, and ask them to give you a heads up if the grass starts to look greener over the fence.

Pay attention to how long an employee has been with you:

Always pay attention to how long you’ve had an employee. Some people consistently last a certain amount of time on a job before they get the itch for a new challenge. By looking at an employee’s past job history, you may be able to predict how long they’ll be satisfied in their current position.

Furthermore, some positions seem to have a built-in time limit for turnover. By knowing how long specific positions tend to retain someone, you can be proactive with your employees by checking in, changing things up, and re-energizing them.

Remember that every employee is different:

It’s crucial to not make assumptions or generalizations about how you will retain your A players.

Remember that every employee is an individual, at a different place in their career. Motivators change by the person, and even change depending on the point someone is at in their lives. For some people, money may be what makes them stay with an employer. For others, the deciding factor could be advancement opportunities, work/life balance, benefits, or just to feel appreciated and challenged.

The wrap-up:

As Seahawks fans, we understand the importance of the team holding on to its A players.

But we know that:

  • A salary cap limits the total compensation the team can pay its players overall
  • Contracts have to be honored by both sides
  • Negotiations can be difficult and uncomfortable
  • Sometimes there are tradeoffs to obtain just the right balance of players.

So, we’ve watched some of the top talent leave the Seahawks, and management renegotiate contracts with others before their contracts were up.

One thing that has stood out to me is that having a winning team, with highly recognized and respected talent, attracts other great talent to it. Who doesn’t want to work alongside the best? 

Keeping your best employees is worth your best effort