At Abel Personnel, we’re accustomed to the unhappy tales of valued employees suddenly submitting a letter of resignation without any prior indication of dissatisfaction or interest in moving on. Replacing such employees can be an arduous, time consuming and costly task, beyond the process of posting the job, receiving resumes, arranging interviews, checking references and negotiating an offer. Even with Abel Personnel assigned the burden of most of those tasks, there is your time investment to address the morale dip when the news is shared, temporarily assigning job duties to others until a replacement is on board, notifying clients and vendors of the new temporary contact, training the replacement, and introducing the replacement to staff, clients and vendors. Your time spent in the transition might be better invested beforehand in actions that might mitigate the reasons for a departure.

In our experience, there are six actions that can reduce the risk of unexpected staff departures

  • Provide an Amazing Onboarding Experience: From the moment that new employee finally arrives for their first day of work, there should be no question that you and your team are excited for this addition to the team and will be making every effort for that person to succeed at the new job and have a great career at the company. Never underestimate the power of that first impression.
  • Reinforce a Culture of Caring : Employees value most a direct supervisor who demonstrates sincere care about an employee and that employee’s career. Culture starts from the top. This can be demonstrated by your touching base a few times a year about the employee’s career goals and how you can support their achievement; recommending continuing education opportunities, both formal and conferences/webinars; taking an interest in the employee’s family, hobbies and vacation plans; and occasionally stopping by (or phoning) the employee to ask how things are going at work and outside of work without any other action to request or information to share.
  • Recognize Achievements : Everyone wants to be appreciated for their above-and-beyond efforts. Some of this recognition will be public, such as a companywide announcement or an award. Others should be private, such as your hand delivering a spot bonus or a gift certificate for dinner-for-two to an employee that stayed late hours one evening to complete a critical task. Recognition should be tied to specific actions, and not just all-around good performance.
  • Be Transparent : When we are not given full information, as human beings we naturally try to guess how to fill in the blanks. Your actions may be easily misinterpreted that the company is in trouble and there will be layoffs soon, or someone else has received the choice assignment. Those conjectures can lead an employee to look elsewhere before the bad news is confirmed. A culture of fully sharing information, even some that is company-sensitive, can both avoid employees acting on partial knowledge, and create an atmosphere of trust that you’ll let the employee know at once if anything has occurred that might threaten their position, compensation or advancement.
  • Be Approachable : Failures and mistakes happen, but rarely do they warrant suspension or termination. Be very clear that you are open to wanting to hear bad news (preferable before you hear it from someone else!). You never want an employee to resign in anticipation of being fired. This will hold true for employees who are dealing with outside-of-work personal challenges who may need PTO or schedule flexibility that they think is unavailable. They need to know that if they don’t ask, the answer is always “no;” if they approach you, they may be pleasantly surprised at what you can work out together. Each staff member must feel like they have a connection to leadership.
  • Acknowledge the Reality of Job Changes : Make it clear that you expect ambitious staff to be on the lookout for advancement both inside and outside the department and company. That’s a fact of the business world. Respectfully request a heads-up just before they start a new job search with a promise of no repercussions and the flexibility to go on interviews without having to call in short notice PTOs. While this is a hard commitment to make, it results in a chance to ask the employee why they are interviewing and therefore an opportunity to address irritants and culture issues. Sometimes that’s enough to dissuade the employee from interviewing without your exerting any pressure.

Employees will continue to change jobs despite their company’s best efforts a staff retention: families relocate, opportunities for advancement await openings to occur, a different work experience is sought. The key is to retain those employees who really want to stay by addressing misunderstandings and unintended consequences that unexpectedly prompts them to consider leaving. And if they do leave, be sure they have a great offboarding experience, too. Don’t burn any bridges: they may be interested in returning someday and may also be sending their colleagues your way based on how well they were treated.

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