The talent your employees bring to your business is what helps you grow and become a leader in your community and industry. Therefore, being aware of the following signs that an employee may be dissatisfied and implementing the suggested employee retention techniques could help you maintain continuity on your team and prevent the costs associated with hiring and onboarding new employees.
What Is Employee Retention?
Employee retention refers to the retaining of productive, motivated workers by reducing turnover as much as possible.
Why Is Employee Retention Important?
Longevity of employees allows you to continue to reap the benefits of a skilled workforce, improved customer relationships, a positive company culture, increased brand reputation, a deeper connections among your team.
Besides the significant loss of time and money put into recruiting, hiring, and onboarding, turnover has equally harmful indirect costs. These include a disrupted workplace culture that harms team building and collaboration efforts and reduces organizational integrity.
“Maintaining a workforce of long-term employees is critical since they have vital insights that affect future trajectories,” says David Bitton, co-founder and CMO at DoorLoop, a property management software firm for the real estate proptech industry.
“By retaining personnel, companies protect institutional knowledge and collective memory, allowing staff to maintain a historical perspective that covers the company's achievements and lessons gained. This historical perspective makes it easier to make wise decisions and create powerful strategies,” says Bitton.
“When employees walk out the door, so do years of knowledge that could save time and ultimately money when it comes to process and procedures,” agrees Robbie Green, Executive Coach, North America at Talking Talent, a leadership coaching organization. “When there is continual churn, teams can find themselves in a perpetual rebuilding phase year after year.”
Being aware of the signs that an employee may be dissatisfied and implementing employee retention techniques can help you maintain continuity on your team and prevent the costs associated with hiring and onboarding new employees.
Signs an Employee Might Be a Retention Risk
The good news is that quitting doesn't usually occur in a vacuum. There are usually telltale signs that an employee is at risk of leaving. Many employees will become disengaged or complain more frequently, while others will experience more absences, or withdraw from their usual level of engagement.
If you can identify employee flight risks early enough, you can work on employee retention. Here are some signs that an employee is contemplating leaving the company.
“If an employee starts complaining frequently about their job or the organization, it may be a sign that they are unhappy and considering leaving,” says executive coach Smita Jain, founder and CEO of Empower Yourself. “For example, they may complain about their workload, their manager, or the company culture,” she says.
Withdrawn and Disinterested
Another sign that employees are considering leaving is becoming withdrawn or disinterested in their work. Whereas an employee used to be proactive, he or she will show a general disregard.
“They may stop asking questions, stop seeking and giving feedback, or stop collaborating with their colleagues,” says Jain. Projects and topics that once interested them won’t seem to interest them anymore.
Heightened irritation and a disagreeable attitude are signs of burnout and may indicate that an employee is about to leave.
“Workers will react irrationally to even the smallest inconveniences or issues,” says Bitton. “In team meetings, they may become visibly agitated and impatient and snap at coworkers or roll their eyes and make sarcastic remarks. This is all in contrast to previous calmness and constructive engagement.”
To spot an employee at risk of leaving, managers need to listen with all their senses, suggests Green. “This means also paying attention to what is not being said. Extremely relaxed and disengaged body language in meetings can be an indication that people are checked out.”
Unreceptive to Constructive Criticism
“If an employee becomes defensive or dismissive of constructive criticism, it may be a sign that they are at risk of quitting,” says Jain. “For example, they may reject feedback from their manager or colleagues or become defensive when given constructive feedback.”
Increased Absenteeism and Decreased Performance
A hallmark sign that an employee has one foot out the door is increased absenteeism combined with decreased performance. “Frequent or unexplained absences can be an indication of a desire to disassociate from the workplace,” says Ally Mataj co-founder of Bonheur Jewelry.
She has found that absenteeism often goes hand-in-hand with a dip in productivity. “There will be a noticeable decline in an employee's performance, such as missed deadlines, quality issues, or reduced productivity,” she says.
Referrals Have Stopped
Content employees tend to refer the business to friends and family. If employees stop actively recommending the company and its services, this may mean they are considering leaving.
Reluctance to Take On Long-Term Projects
Employees on the verge of quitting will usually show resistance and a lack of enthusiasm when long-term projects are introduced. If they have a choice in the matter, they may recommend that another employee take on the task.
Employee Retention Ideas
If your employees show any of the above signs of leaving: take heart. These employee retention ideas can help you convince them to stay with your company.
Offer Additional Responsibility
The best way to retain quality employees is to show you trust their abilities, which in turn makes them feel they play a significant role in the success of the business.
“Providing employees with opportunities to take on new challenges and responsibilities can make them feel valued and engaged,” says Jain. “For example, give an employee the opportunity to lead a project or mentor a new team member.”
Autonomy is key to building employee trust and retention, believes Anjela Mangrum, president of Mangrum Career Solutions. “I've seen micromanagement drive the most resilient professionals to eventually quit high-paying positions. If you have a process that requires multiple approvals or following a precise set of instructions that aren't strictly necessary, consider changing that.”
Hire With Employee Retention in Mind
Retention starts with the hiring process, believes Reid Carr, CEO of marketing agency Red Door Interactive.
"Even before an employee joins the team, during the hiring process, they are given a strong and clear understanding of the company culture here," says Carr. "This helps funnel the right people to the organization."
Show Concern for Employees
“Demonstrating genuine care for employees' well-being through regular check-ins, providing work-life balance initiatives, and offering support programs can create a positive work environment, says Mataj. “When employees feel supported and valued, they are more likely to remain committed to the organization.”
Provide Additional Training
“Offering ongoing training and professional development opportunities helps employees enhance their skills, stay engaged, and feel invested in their personal growth,” says Mataj. “Encouraging their development also signals the company’s commitment to their long-term success within the organization.”
Consider offering in-house workshops and seminars and mentorship programs as well as paying for online courses and conferences.
Foster Open Lines of Communication
Simply asking how an employee is doing goes a long way.
“Regular communication between managers and employees helps build trust, foster open dialogue, and addresses any issues or concerns before they escalate,” says Jain. “This can help employees feel heard, valued, and supported, which increases job satisfaction and loyalty to the company.”
Green likes to conduct what she calls stay interviews. “Instead of waiting until someone quits to ask in retrospect during the exit interview what would have gotten them to stay, I like to hear in real-time what employees need to remain. Do they have any barriers that are getting in the way of their success that you could easily remove as a manager? Do they have all the resources they need to be successful?"
Offer Competitive Pay and Benefits
Employees who feel fairly compensated with competitive pay and benefits such as PTO, health insurance, and retirement plans are more likely to stay with a company.
Recognize Employee Achievements
Acknowledging employees' contributions through rewards, recognition programs, or performance-based incentives boosts morale and increases retention.
Promote a Diverse and Inclusive Culture
“Embracing diversity, providing equal opportunities, and fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected and valued can significantly contribute to employee retention and satisfaction,” says Mataj.
Allow for Work-Life Balance
Encouraging workers to recharge and rejuvenate is important to preventing burnout and promoting a healthy work environment that leads to employee retention.
“Make it a regular practice to evaluate employee workloads,” says Bitton. “Check that given tasks are doable, realistic, and can be finished in the allotted timeframe. By doing this, you can spot employees who might have too much work. Proactively addressing uneven workloads shows your dedication to upholding the well-being of your employees and fostering a positive work environment.”
What Are the Benefits of Employee Retention?
When you take the time to ensure that your employees have everything they need to excel at your company, you create a workplace culture that breeds high-quality work. By reducing turnover, you retain your best and brightest employees, increase morale and foster excellent customer service.
The following employee retention benefits illustrate just how important it is to prevent unnecessary turnover.
Greater Worker Productivity
When employees feel valued and are excited about staying and working for your company, they tend to be more productive.
Improved Employee Morale
Reduced Staffing Costs
Every time you terminate an employee and hire a new person, your operational expenses rise. Retain employees and avoid these costs.
Improved Customer Experiences
Customers enjoy being served by long-term, experienced employees who are familiar with them and your company’s offerings. Such regularity gives customers a feeling of trust and confidence in your company.
Retained Company Knowledge
Employees who have been with your company for awhile have gained information about the business and its operations that new employees just don’t have.
When you focus on retaining the talented employees, you are going to have satisfied employees happy to go to work every day.
While employee retention does take time and extra effort, the benefits, including satisfied employees and a more productive work environment are well worth the effort.
A version of this article was originally published on May 3, 2019.
Photo: Getty Images