There isn’t any way to sugar coat this, but the success of your business is totally predicated on the people who work for you.
So, when you’ve a hunch that your best employee 🌟 could be looking to go elsewhere – it can of course leave you feeling anxious and disappointed.
Unlike a corporate business, losing a colleague in a smaller organisation can hit you harder. And what’s more, you probably don’t have extra pairs of hands to cover their job, while you’re looking for someone new.
One of your biggest responsibilities as a small business owner, is to keep hold of your people. Replacing staff costs loads and takes time.
But, having a better understanding of why employees tend to leave businesses – and how they behave when they’re looking to go – will help you to handle the situation the best way you can.
WHY OH WHY?
I read one research study, that said these are the top five reasons employees leave their jobs 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼
- To develop their careers
- To get a better work-life balance
- To escape a bad manager
- To reap better benefits
- To enable a relocation
Look at this list! The good thing is that four out of the five things on it, can be addressed.
In my experience, humongous life events can also prompt a person to re-think their circumstances. For example, when employees become parents; suffer a horrid, life-threatening illness; or lose somebody close.
FOUR SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR 👀
1. More time off
If your employee is eyeing up opportunities elsewhere, the chances are they’ll need to take time off to answer calls from prospective employers and go to interviews.
Therefore, a member of staff who’s usually punctual, accessible, and always at work – who suddenly starts to ring in sick, or has excuses for being late or leaving early – could be job hunting.
Okay, there might be other reasons for these absences. But, if this is new behaviour, it’s totally worth keeping an eye on.
2. A change in how they are at work
How does your employee tend to ‘be’ at work? In other words, what’s their ‘normal’ attitude, behaviour, work ethic, and output?
We all have bad days, don’t we? But, if you’re seeing sustained changes in how they’re acting at work – for reasons unbeknown to you – it may be a sign that they’ve become disengaged and are looking for opportunities elsewhere.
Alarm bells should be ringing if they’re: less accessible; doing less work; working fewer hours; not being as proactive as they normally are; coming across negatively; or being quieter than usual.
As a responsible employer, you’re right to notice these changes, whilst being mindful that there could be other things going on too.
3. An unusual interest in employment terms
Other than HR nerds like me, nobody’s that interested in employment contract stuff.
But, when a person is on the cusp of handing in their resignation, there are practical and financial things that’ll be on their mind. For example, what notice period they’ll need to give; what happens to holidays they’re owed; and if they’ll still be eligible for an annual bonus payment.
If they can’t find the answers to these questions, they might start subtly asking around. These types of enquiries could mean your employee is going to leave you.
4. More posting, liking, sharing, commenting, tweeting
A wise leader once told me that there was always a correlation between a spike in LinkedIn activity and an imminent resignation.
LinkedIn reckon that 56% of job seekers look for new opportunities on social professional networks.
LinkedIn is a tool that’s specifically used by business folk to find jobs, recruit people, generate more business leads, and exchange ideas and content.
So, unlike other social media channels – an increase in activity on this site could suggest your member of staff is looking for new opportunities.
ASK YOURSELF THESE TWO QUESTIONS
If you suspect your employee might be thinking of leaving, ask yourself if there’s been a trigger. You won’t know for sure until you speak to them, but it helps to pre-empt the conversation, shape your response, and put yourself into their shoes.
Question 1 - what work triggers might there have been? For example:
- Too much work, too many hours
- A dispute of some sort
- Changes in your business (people, processes, policies, systems)
Question 2 - what home triggers might there have been? For example:
- A major life-event
- A physical or mental illness
- A change in family circumstances
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Don’t panic. If you think they’ve given you enough ‘signs’ now to suggest they could be off-ski – it’s time to have an honest chat with them. Beforehand, jot down what’s led you to have concerns.
Sort out a time to talk with your employee – or use an existing 1-2-1 session – as long as it’s not too far away. After all, time is of the essence. ⏳
Don’t put them on the spot. 🔦 Give them some clue as to why you want to see them. For example, you could say: “You don’t seem your normal self at the moment, I’d just like to check-in with you and make sure everything’s okay.”
During the catch-up, re-iterate why you want to have a chat, and provide a bit of evidence to back up your worries – acknowledging any work or home triggers you might be aware of.
Ask some nice, open questions that allow your employee to tell you what’s going on, while you listen carefully 👂🏼 to what they’re saying.
If they don’t give you any reason to suspect they’re leaving – use it as an opportunity to find out if there’s anything more you can do for them – to make their life at work better.
If they do tell you they’re leaving – swallow your pride and show you’re disappointed. Ask why, and find out if there’s anything you can do convince them to stay. But, don’t make any decisions there and then. Explain that you need time to digest the news and agree when you’ll speak again.
In the meantime, you’ll need to carefully consider what they’ve told you and what you could do to stop them going.
TAKE PROACTIVE STEPS
There are ways to help discourage your employee from leaving too! Aside from creating a job and environment they really enjoy, you would look at introducing employee retention strategies, such as offering shares in your business (called LTIPs) or businesses paid out 12 months + after they have been learnt
TO SUM THINGS UP THEN
- Yes, it’s a stressful time when you suspect a star employee is going to leave you. 😟 And the loss always feels bigger when there’s not many of you.
- Knowing why people tend to leave their jobs is useful insight for any boss to have, because in loads of cases, it can be totally avoided. 💡
- Look out for the key signs. But remember, these aren’t a guarantee that your employee is on the cusp of handing in their notice. 👀
- Being aware of any work or home triggers, is good knowledge to have in your armoury for when you come to have a chat. 🏡
- Sit down together and figure out what’s going on – but do a bit of prep in advance. 💬
- Follow a structure during your 1-2-1 and find out what you can do to either help retain your employee or make them happier at work. 📝
- Consider whether you want to give aware company shares or bonuses to get a long-term commitment
Virtual HR Director & Leadership Mentor. I create game-changing HR & Hiring Strategies for ambitious small businesses in the UK and support you to lead your team with confidence. Check out my shop to download HR Templates & Contracts designed to make life easier.