Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Stuart Hearn, CEO of Clear Review. His opinions are his own.
Recruitment is a nightmare. It takes its toll in so many ways. It begins with the disruption involved when an employee resigns, and ends with a significant amount of time, effort, and money being spent to recruit and train a suitable replacement.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, total recruitment costs can reach as high as 90% to 200% of the employee’s annual salary. On top of all this, organizations need to consider the time required to train an employee to full productivity, which might take as long as 28 weeks. All of this stands in the way of your company’s overall performance and productivity levels, so clearly, management and HR should be taking any steps possible to minimize turnover.
With this in mind, we should turn our attention to glaring warning signs your employees are close to leaving you high and dry. Spotting such behavior early means your performance management team can step in with measures to resolve the situation and, hopefully, retain a promising employee.
Warning sign #1. They’re constantly exhausted
Don’t mistake exhaustion with dedication. If you notice an employee running themselves into the ground with the amount of work they are taking on, you should know that this can only last so long before the employee becomes completely overwhelmed and burnt out. No matter how ambitious or engaged an employee once was, they can only work at full steam for so long before they become depleted, disillusioned, and demotivated. When the employee finally realizes what the stress of the job is doing to their health, they will more than likely look for a less demanding position elsewhere.
According to one study, heavy workload is one of the main sources of workplace stress. Overworked employees generally suffer from lower levels of morale and engagement, and eventually grow to resent their employers. They are also much more prone to making mistakes. A Stanford study shows productivity per hour declines rapidly when they work more than fifty hours per week. If you notice your employees regularly pushing their limits and working all hours of the day, it is more than likely they will leave. Overworked employees are 31% more likely to think about leaving their job than those who are satisfied with their workload. For the sake of your employees and your organization, step in and let them know it is okay to relax every now and then.
Warning sign #2. They’re frequently absent or constantly ask for time off
If an employee is about to leave, it is generally because they are dissatisfied and disengaged with the company and their work. We know disengaged employees are more frequently absent from the office. Absenteeism can result in a loss of productivity and has been known to cost organizations $2,650 per salaried employee per year.
Watch out for employees who repeatedly arrive late or leave early. This is a clear reflection of their apathy for their work and is an early warning sign that they’ll soon be leaving. Another indicator will be the request for random days off. It may be the case that they are using this time to interview for a job elsewhere.
Warning sign #3. You notice a change in their attitude
Disengagement might manifest itself in a gradual shift in attitude. If you notice that an employee who was once dedicated, sociable, and motivated no longer interacts with their co-workers and has stopped chipping in with ideas in meetings, you should take note. It may be that this is a short-lived phase, but if you notice that it has gone on for a while, discuss the situation with your employee. It may be that they are frustrated with a recent change in protocol or company structure. Maybe they are unchallenged or dissatisfied with their current goals.
This is part of the reason why many performance management systems are beginning to incorporate regular weekly check-ins to their routines. Managers will be able to use this opportunity to gauge an employee’s level of dedication. Frequent, authentic communication is the best way to pick out indicators on whether an employee is mentally checking out. This will give the organization the opportunity to act before things get worse.
Warning sign #4. They have demonstrated a change in quality of work
When an employee is so disillusioned or dissatisfied with their work that they are thinking of leaving, chances are they will demonstrate a change in their quality of work. This can come in one of two ways, but both are clear warning signs they will be leaving you soon.
Some employees become totally disengaged and ‘check out’ of their role entirely. These employees will miss deadlines, or their completed work will appear sloppy or completely below par. This will be particularly noticeable if the employee in question was once remarkable and extremely productive. It should be noted that this in itself is not always indicative of a disengaged employee. Managers should establish a dialogue with the employee to ensure everything is okay at home; if they are experiencing troubles with family life, this might be having an effect at work.
Conversely, other employees may become increasingly productive and super-efficient, completing assignments early and surpassing expectations. This might be an indication the employee is trying to tie off any loose ends as they want to leave their role on a strong note.
Warning sign #5. The employee has become more active on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has changed the world of recruitment. It is now a key tool for recruiters; 87% of them use LinkedIn to source high-quality employees. Active job seekers will appreciate its importance and will begin to actively use it as a means of networking. This means they will begin to update their profiles, making a lot of new connections and joining relevant groups. When combined with one or more of the warning signs mentioned above, this should give you cause for concern.
How to prevent quality employees from leaving
Until an employee has officially resigned from their position, there are ways and means of resolving the situation. Certain performance management processes can be utilized to re-engage and motivate the employee. This will certainly be worth the effort, when you consider how difficult it will ultimately be to replace them and to get the replacement fully trained.
As mentioned, regular communication is a necessity when it comes to retaining employees. A number of Fortune 500 companies have been making the shift towards continuous performance management in recent years. This means abandoning the yearly performance review in favor of weekly or monthly performance check-ins or ‘discussions’. During this time, the manager can get updated regarding employee progress. They also have the opportunity to relate to the employee and find out how they are feeling with their current workload. This frequent communication results in the employee feeling more comfortable and familiar with their managers, so they are more inclined to discuss pressing issues. This is particularly important when you consider the fact that managers account for a 70% variance in employee engagement, according to a Gallup survey.
To re-motivate your employees and get them excited about their work again, it is integral that special attention is paid to goal setting. This collaborative process should put the employee in the driving seat. Discuss their skills, strengths, and ambitions and allow the employee to set their own SMART goals. This will have the benefit of giving the employee a sense of independence, it will give them control over their own career, and it should also be noted we are far more motivated to accomplish goals we set ourselves.
Finally, reward and recognition is an essential aspect of employee retention. No employee works for money alone. They want to know their efforts are being appreciated and that what they are doing matters to the company as a whole. Employee recognition doesn’t have to cost a lot. Just take the time to make the employee feel like a valued part of the team, or you might risk losing them for a more appreciative organization.