What drives good employees to leave

17 Apr

Why do good employees quit and more importantly, how can you stop them?

No matter what company they work for, HR managers and supervisors will always have to deal with good employees leaving the business. People move on, whether it's for a career change, a higher salary, a promotion or personal reasons. 

Finding a proper replacement can be challenging, and no company wants to lose a valuable team player. Are there actions that hint someone is about to turn in his or her notice? And what can managers offer resigning employees to convince them to stay?

Certain behaviors signal a resignation is coming
There are certain actions that clearly indicate someone has either lost interest in his or her work or they're about to quit. Coming in late and leaving early, disappearing for lengthy periods in the middle of the day and barely getting any work done are obvious signs you'll soon need to replace someone, but what about less obvious signs?

Research from Utah State University indicated that certain behaviors, when performed consistently, reveal a worker is probably about to leave in one or two months. These activities all had one common thread – they helped an employee start disengaging him or herself from the workplace. Tim Gardner, an associate professor at the university, said that if an employee is engaging in at least six of the following behaviors, the model he created predicted with 80 percent accuracy that the individual was about to resign. These tendencies included:

  • Becoming more quiet
  • Avoiding social gatherings at which upper management would attend
  • Becoming less interested in promotion opportunities
  • Reluctance to commit to long-term projects
  • Speaking up less frequently in meetings
  • Not going above and beyond
  • Minimal interest in developing new skills and participating in training initiatives
  • Reduced productivity
  • Failing to offer up new ideas for improvement

HR managers can train supervisors within their companies to keep an eye out for such behaviors. While they aren't necessarily always associated with an impending resignation, they are certainly a warning sign.

"It appears that a person's attitude can create behaviors that are hard to disguise," said Gardner. "As the grass starts to look greener on the other side of the fence to you, chances are that others will soon notice that you've lost your focus."

What will convince them to stay?
Employee turnover is costly, with regard to dollars, recruiting costs and employee morale overall. Therefore, after receiving a letter of resignation a manager's first line of defense should be to save the job and convince the employee to stay.

This may be easier said than done. A whitepaper from the Society of Human Resource Management showed that in initial exit interviews, 38 percent of employees said they were leaving because of salary, while only 4 percent cited poor supervisors. When these same employees were surveyed again year-and-a-half later these numbers changed drastically – 12 percent said salary was their reason for departing while 24 percent said it was poor management. If fewer than 15 percent of people are really quitting because of salary, HR managers shouldn't necessarily offer a raise to retain someone. Seeing if they're interested in moving to another department or working with another team could be more beneficial, though if the worker's problem is with management as a whole, this strategy may not prove effective. 

Work-related stress was a significant reason why employees quit, according to Towers Watson data, but this same study showed that concern didn't resonate with managers, who didn't think it belonged in the top seven reasons why workers will leave. Supervisors need to rectify this, and soon, especially as constant access to technology may make some workers feel they're on call 24/7. Trying to determine the underlying cause of staff stress and offering to work with someone who's quitting on this factor may convince them the job is worth staying in after all.

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