01 May 2014

Telltale signs an employee is preparing to quit

With up to 1/3 of staff considering looking for a new job, we look at the warning signs to look out for and what you can do to retain your workers.

Following from Tuesday's post about the happiness of our workforce, where we mentioned a study suggesting that one third of workers are looking for a new job, here are some warning signs that could indicate that a member of staff wants to leave. 

  • Their attitude changes. For example, if a previously enthusiastic employee becomes less interested in their work, offers fewer ideas or suggestions, isn’t as committed to long-term plans or training or doesn’t seem quite as keen to please you as before.
  • Productivity falls. Where a worker may have gone the extra mile, if they’re job hunting, they may reduce this and only do the bare minimum as they begin to wind down. You may notice this in the volume or quality of their work.
  • Their behaviour changes. Is a worker interacting less than normal with colleagues and managers e.g. starting to spend every lunch break at their desk? Or are they no longer coming into work early or staying late, but instead working only their exact hours?  
  • They’re on the phone more. This could be an indication that they’re on the phone to recruitment agencies or arranging interviews. 
  • They are less vocal about issues. If their mind is set on leaving, they are less likely to raise issues, as they don’t think it will be their concern in the future. However, this could also be a good sign, if you’ve addressed some of the issues they’ve raised in the past, they may just be more satisfied.
  • Sickness or leave days increase. Take note if a worker starts requesting a day’s leave at short notice or calls in sick for a day at a time, as they could be going for job interviews. Of course, they could also genuinely be going through a period of ill-health or issues at home, so don’t just jump to conclusions.
  • Sudden social signals. Perhaps they’ve given their LinkedIn profile a major update or have just connected with a number of recruitment agents?

While these signs don’t always mean that your employee is job hunting, if you notice several changes over a period of time, it’s definitely a possibility. 

How to approach a potential leaver

If you value the staff member in question, it makes sense to see if there’s anything you can do to get them to stay.  After all, hiring is costly and time consuming, as is training. Plus new personalities can make a huge impact on your current team and it can take time for new staff to build up their knowledge.

There’s often a good reason staff want to leave, but rather than asking them outright, make time for them instead and listen to any issues they have. From this discussion you’ll be able to see if there is a solution you can offer that will encourage them to stay. For example, can you offer them greater or less responsibility, a rise or better working conditions?

It may be that you can’t offer anything that will make them want to stay. If this is the case, try to keep a good relationship with them and consider conducting an exit interview – whether formal or not. These can help with future staff retention initiatives.

How to stop staff wanting to leave

  • Engage with your staff on a regular basis. Ask them what they think of the business and their work life. Make sure you feedback the actions you take to address any issues they raise.
  • Recognise achievements whether they’re large or small. This doesn’t need to be in the form of monetary rewards – often simple acknowledgements can go a long way.
  • Work out what motivates individuals and use this knowledge to keep them happy in their job. For example, if they’re motivated by developing their skills, can you offer them training or work that will encourage them to keep learning?  
  • Communicate regularly. Have regular one-to-ones with your team so they understand how their role contributes to the business and what’s expected of them – and what they can expect from you. Use these sessions to nip any minor gripes in the bud before they become real issues.
  • Offer benefits. These don’t have to be monetary. Are there any more unusual benefits you can offer that they would value?
  • Hire the right people in the first place. Don’t just settle for anyone – employ someone who will fit in with the rest of your team, who has the right skills and the right attitude. 

Also see our tips on productivity and research on why staff may look for another job