Losing an employee, especially one of your best is never an easy pill to swallow. Sure you wish them well in their future endeavours, but now you have to replace them. Finding a substitute to fill the soon to be empty shoes is not only expensive and time consuming, it can be highly disruptive for an extensive period of time. Wouldn’t you rather negate the matter altogether by recognising the warning signs and effecting your own plan to persuade them to stay?

There are some obvious red flags that an employee is preparing to leave:

  • A change in attitude that sees them lacking motivation and complaining repeatedly
  • A distinct drop in productivity as they disengage from their position and company
  • Frequently arriving late to work, particularly if they always arrive early
  • Increased absenteeism, especially on a Monday or Friday, highlighting a lack of interest or a need to schedule job interviews into their working day
  • Increased delegation of their responsibilities demonstrates they are transitioning out
  • A change in their social cues where they struggle to meet your eye, force smiles and withdraw from humorous office banter and colleagues in a bid to seek isolation
  • A discouraging reaction to being passed over for a promotion

The list is considerably more extensive and you will recognise these noticeable signs, if you are looking for them! Being attuned to the warning signs allows you to undertake actions that reverse an employee’s decision to leave. And that of course can save you one huge headache!

Responding to an employee you believe is about to quit needs to be swift, particularly if they are a key performer as they are going to be snapped up quickly once they pitch their wares to the broader market. And since time is of the essence, take a head on approach. This means preparing for and having a conversation with your employee as soon as possible. Setting a meeting remember that the agenda is as much about the employee as it is the business. It is important to retain this delicate balance, so remember to listen to your employee’s responses as you question their intention to leave the organisation.

Setting and maintaining the right tone may not be easy. You need to be clear on the employee’s value to the business and ready with potential counter offers, thus consider your employees likely responses and how you will react to them before the meeting commences. Let’s theorise that your employee has expressed that they would consider staying in the event they are offered a pay rise with one Friday a month off. If you reply that you are unable to accommodate their wishes without making the same offer to everyone else, you will have successfully made the moment all about the business and not at all about the employee. Perhaps explain their value to the organisation and that you would like to keep them if you can. Ask them to consider a position of greater responsibility that would come with a higher salary. Not only does this meet their terms for an increase in their salary, but sets a new career challenge that they are likely to take under careful consideration. There will be many reasons why an employee is looking to continue their career elsewhere, if you are willing to listen and be flexible in posing options to persuade them stay, you can avoid placing that job ad.

For those of you that are less confrontational you may want to conduct ‘stay’ interviews. The purpose of such an interview is to determine what makes an employee want to keep working for you. Additionally you may learn what would motivate them to leave.

A manager can be the cause and solution to many employee issues. In fact, the number one reason an employee leaves is due to a bad manager. So consider for a moment that you may be the reason your employees are tendering their resignation. Hmm, bet that thought doesn’t sit well with you! Loyalty is a two way street though. All parties must be willing to give and take in an effort to preserve a positive working relationship. Yet it is inevitable that you will lose employees. And you may choose not to intervene, even when you suspect your employees are looking to move on.

If you believe an employee is looking to depart ways with your organisation, taking no action will undoubtedly see them walking out of the office and never returning. Confronting the situation directly with the employee in question will however give you the chance to retain their services, perhaps for many, many years more. And if your observations were off track, you can use the opportunity to express how important the employee is to the business. If they ever do find themselves in a position of being poached or momentarily considering a role elsewhere, they will remember that you value their contributions and see their future with you. Consequently that one simple expression of their worth to you may prove to be of significant value down the track.

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