In June, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), published a round-up of news coverage suggesting that employees are jumping ship — across a variety of industries and at a multitude of levels. The New York Times, for example, reports that nearly 4 million people quit their jobs in April, making the nation’s quit rate 2.7 percent, a level not observed since 2000. SHRM, for their part, previously weighed in and suggested that the quit rate actually represents the market righting itself after workers stayed on during the pandemic, while the Wall Street Journal touts the trend as a “positive signal of a healthy labor market” as workers feel confident about their ability to seek new employment.
While we’re all in for a healthy labor market and a booming economy, the reality is that saying a fond farewell to your prize employees isn’t exactly a boost for your business. In addition to the hassle of having to replace them, there’s also all the costs associated with the recruiting and training process, the loss of productivity while you wait to fill the spot, and the loss of institutional knowledge from seeing a tenured employee leave, and the fear of making a bad hire (which can represent another blow to your bottom line!)
Below, we outline a few of our best tips for identifying the warning signs that may signal someone is one foot out the door and what you can do to keep them in your company.
Do your homework
Even when the Titanic was sinking, the captain made it a point to prioritize women and children for escape in the life rafts. Similarly, you’ll want to go ahead and identify your company’s top performers or those that hold the most institutional knowledge and put processes in place to ensure that they aren’t starting to look for other opportunities — after all, if they’re looking for a new job, they’re already one foot out the door. That’s not to say that your other employees aren’t important, but rather that if you have to focus your resources, assessing your employees is a good place to start.
When you reflect on the employees you’ve lost, chances are you had an inkling that they were likely to leave. Frequently identified early warning signs include a major life change, such as completing a diploma or certificate or starting a family; the employee’s perception that they were passed over for a promotion or other career advancement; and if there’s been a high rate of turnover in their department or if their boss has left, especially if their departure is on bad terms. Other more personality-driven changes include when a previously near-perfect employee stops engaging in projects, fails to respond to emails or other forms of communication, and begins calling out or otherwise taking time off.
Statistics show that your new hires are generally the first out the door — often because the actual job can’t live up to the description that you sold during the interview process. To address this issue, first make sure that your written job description, and how you describe it during interviews, match the task at hand. In addition, experts recommend that you do share any downsides of the role, such as a large sales territory, a heavy travel schedule, or even if the job site has a tough commute or is otherwise tricky, and talk about how others have navigated these challenges and made it work for their role.
Get on board
As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, a strong onboarding program is integral to employee success and engagement and thus retention. In addition to giving employees the tools they need to be successful, experts also recommend setting up new hires with folks that can serve as mentors within your organization and can help share their knowledge and help your new hire cultivate roots within the company.
Forge a path
One of the biggest reasons why folks jump ship is due to job stagnation – either real or perceived. Even from the time you hire someone, you should make them aware of the promotions process within your company, including what skills, certifications, years of experience, or other metrics they will have to meet to bump up to the next level. For you, that means having a clear written promotional pathway that you can reference to guide your employees from the time that they are even considering a role at your company.
This one seems super obvious, especially post-pandemic when we learned to make all the concessions but understanding what your employees juggle on a day-to-day basis can help you to make informed decisions about their workflow. While we aren’t suggesting that you give fewer projects to those who have kids at home or are caring for elderly relatives, being willing to offer flexible hours so that employees can best take care of these obligations can go a long way towards breeding worker loyalty and ultimately reducing turnover. Not sure what your employees need from you? Reach out and ask them how you can help them to best achieve a good work-life balance and then help troubleshoot potential solutions.
Nothing breeds disengagement quite like being left out of conversations or left in the dark all together! All too often, business owners don’t want to trouble staff with what they deem to be silly changes or updates, but when such transitions take place, employees caught in the crossfire can feel left out of the loop. Take steps to make sure that you keep your employees informed — such as through a monthly email or newsletter, or less formal weekly email updates. Similarly, foster an environment where two-way communication is the norm by either having an open-door policy as a business owner or creating formal channels for employees to give and receive feedback.
Oftentimes, we use exit interviews to gain knowledge about why an employee chose to leave. However, by that time, it’s too late to make a difference for that employee and you can only hope that they will provide tangible feedback that will prevent the next worker from jumping ship. Slow your business’s revolving door by using your performance check ins with employees to ask about what they think is working with their job and where the company can make improvements — and then actually take steps to address and resolve the issues identified. In following this model, you will keep employees actively engaged in their jobs, which in turn leads to reduced turnover.