Keeping good employees satisfied is always a concern. A current strong economy and low unemployment rate is increasingly making employee retention a top priority for many business owners.
According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the last few years, employees have quit at an increased pace in a variety of industries, including healthcare, construction and hospitality and food service. The number of workers who quit in February 2019 amounted to 3.5 million employees.
Given the time and money dedicated to hiring and training employees, these employee retention statistics may be alarming.
"Good employees are essential to a company's success, and trying to replace them is always a challenge," says Michael J. Brennan, founder of the Law Offices of Michael J. Brennan. "With new employees you must do the marketing to find the right person, the interview process and the training. It may take six months or longer before you know you have the right employee."
Turnover also affects the entire office, notes Mike Monroe, digital strategy manager for Vector Marketing.
"Whenever top employees quit, they leave a scar on the entire organization," Monroe says. "At best, their leaving suggests that the company isn't good enough to ensure employee retention. At worst, it can cause other employees to lose love of [the] company."
Signs an Employee May Be Considering Quitting
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.
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.
"I've found when employees are thinking about leaving, they will complain about things that were never an issue before," says Nadav Hazaz, owner of Milwaukee Lockstar, a full-service emergency locksmith.
"Employees seeking to leave will have a shift in their former approach to the job and argue or complain about things they didn't have issues with prior," says Hazaz. "This refers to more mundane things that aren't really of concern."
The best way I've found to retain quality employees is to make them feel they're irreplaceable to the business. I do that by giving them more responsibility and more independence.
—Michael J. Brennan, founder, The Law Offices of Michael J. Brennan
Withdrawn and Disinterested
"When an employee stops being engaged and becomes withdrawn, this is a sign that you're losing at employee retention," says Brennan. "Another sign is disinterest in the company and what is occurring in the office."
Withdrawal from the company is a definite sign, agrees Monroe.
"Whenever someone starts using words like 'they' and 'them' to refer to colleagues instead of 'we,' or starts saying things like 'this department should be doing this,' then that's usually a sign the employee is planning on leaving," he says.
"Employees on the way out become disengaged with their work," says Courtney Mudd, director of human resources at Influence & Co., a content marketing agency.
"Most employees will become disengaged at some point, but there's a difference between a disengaged employee with one foot out the door and a disengaged employee who needs to be challenged more," says Mudd.
"If an employee is bored and needs additional challenges," she continues, "the person will usually bring it up with the manager, whereas disengaged employees are likely looking for other opportunities."
Unreceptive to Constructive Criticism
"Employees on the brink of leaving may appear receptive to feedback but fail to change their performance based on that feedback," says Mudd. "If you find yourself having the same conversation again and again with an employee, there's a good chance the person has checked out and is looking for something new."
Increased Absenteeism and Decreased Performance
"Employees at risk of quitting often experience increased absenteeism," says David Lesniak, CEO of Personiv, a company that provides outsourcing talent. "They'll do the least amount of work possible to get by."
Ken Costello, chief operating officer at MST Solutions, a managed services and enterprise technology solutions provider, agrees.
"Often when employees seem disengaged, decrease their output or lose their drive to go above and beyond, those are signals that may indicate they're at risk of leaving," says Costello. "They may also stop bringing new ideas to the table or actively participating in team meetings."
Referrals Have Stopped
Content employees tend to refer the business to friends and family.
"If your employees aren't actively referring others to your brand, either as customers or as job candidates, you have a loyalty problem, and that could mean the employee is considering leaving," says Monroe.
Employee Retention Tips
If your employees show any of these signs, take heart: There are actions you can take to convince them to stay with your company.
Offer Additional Responsibility
"The best way I've found to retain quality employees is to make them feel they're irreplaceable to the business," says Brennan. "I do that by giving them more responsibility and more independence. That really builds up their self-worth and in turn gives them incentive to make the business better."
Recognize their achievements and celebrate wins together, adds Mudd.
"When you can connect their work to the impact it has on the bottom line of the business," she says, "it becomes a lot easier for them to make the connection and see their purpose at the company."
"My team and I agree on deadlines, and as long as everyone meets those deadlines, we're good," Zimmerman continues. "All but one of my employees works virtually. They can work from midnight to four in the morning. I don't care, as long as the work gets done."
Hire With Employee Retention in Mind
Retention starts with the hiring process, believes Reid Carr, owner 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
"To ensure employee retention, it's important to invest in their health and contentment," says Brian Allery, vice president of employee success and administration at WebPT, a software company for the outpatient rehab industry.
"We provide employees healthy food truck options, offer personal finance workshops and organize leadership training and team-building activities, among many other perks," says Allery.
Provide Additional Training
Costello has had luck with employee retention by giving employees with a desire and aptitude the opportunity to grow into leadership.
"We provide leadership tools and training and set benchmarks and measures to help hold them accountable for achieving their goals," he says.
Yet despite your best efforts at employee retention, it may be time for an employee to leave. This is true if the person no longer jibes with your company culture or the job description. It may be that your business shifted and grew and an employee no longer fits.
"If an employee is already out the door, there's no point in trying to entice the person to stay," says Mudd. "The employee might change his or her mind for awhile if you offer a raise, but eventually you'll return to the same scenario."
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