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7 Signs You’re About to Lose Staff and What You Can Do About It

The ‘great resignation’ that was predicted has started. Are you confident that your staff are all really locked in and secure for the coming year? Like any relationship breakdown, the signs of a pending resignation are often there. It’s just that we prefer not to see them, so we don’t – the head in the sand approach that is all too familiar. So, what are the signs that someone is fed up and about to leave?

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner
Male employee preparing to quite the job

The ‘great resignation’ that was predicted has started to bite. We’ve been dealing with a number of clients this past couple of weeks who are reeling from what they are calling ‘shock resignations’ and scrambling to fill the gap in a very tight candidate market. All this is just adding to the stress they’ve already been through.

Are you confident that your staff are all locked in and secure for the coming year?

The signs of a pending resignation are often there. It’s just that we prefer not to see them, so we don’t – the head in the sand approach that is all too familiar.

And if you do suspect something is up, what are you doing about it?

Most employers think it’s about money – they’re leaving because they’ve been offered more money somewhere else (another feature of a tight candidate market). But it’s too easy to say that.

The truth is, more money is not the #1 reason why people leave jobs. In fact, it sits between 4 and 6 in a list of 10 reasons why people leave jobs.

The number #1 reason someone leaves a job is that they feel their contribution is not valued.

And when we feel our contribution isn’t valued, we feel worthless and start to look for somewhere that will make us feel more valuable. Think romantic relationships here – no amount of money in the world can make up for being made to feel less than worthy.

And it doesn’t happen overnight. No-one wakes up one morning and decides to leave their job in the middle of eating their muesli.

Like any relationship breakdown, it’s usually been a long time coming and the signs have been there for a while.

So, what are the signs that someone is fed up and thinking of leaving?

1. They gradually become more withdrawn

You might notice someone is quieter than usual. And it’s the same every day. You might put it down to depression or something going on in their private life that is affecting their mood and choose not to get involved. But what you may be witnessing is the beginning of the end.

2. They aren’t as available as they used to be

Someone who was once always the first one to stay behind and put in some extra hours when you needed help suddenly always has somewhere else they need to be. They’re putting in the 38 hours they’re paid for each week and that’s it. Not doing any more than you have to is a sign of disengagement and it’s a warning you shouldn’t ignore.

3. They’re a bit more ‘business-like’ in their communications

The warmth and openness has gone from their communications with you. Their sentences are shorter, they don’t stay as long in a conversation as they used to, they may avoid eye contact, and they are less patient with small talk and niceties.

4. They might take more sick days

This is a clear sign that something isn’t quite right. Excessive sick leave can be an indicator of malaise or demotivation. But it could also be a sign that they aren’t well. Either way, it’s not something you should ignore.

5. They don’t contribute as much in meetings as they used to

Meetings that were once vibrant discussions about the possibilities that lay ahead, accompanied by energised planning on how to achieve the goals are now just exercises in passiveness. They turn up and that’s about all you can say.

6. They’re nipping out for private calls more often

When someone is finding a private space to take or make a phone call at work, it could be more than just a quick chat to the bank or setting up a date with the new fling. If they’re doing it often, then you need to wonder why they’re having so many conversations they don’t want anyone else to hear. Chatting to a recruiter, maybe?

7. They avoid social work gatherings

When people feel under-valued, they also feel unattractive and unwelcome, particularly in settings where they’re surrounded by people who seem to be valued. If someone is avoiding spending time with the team, they may be feeling as if they don’t belong.

How do you ‘save’ the relationship before it disintegrates?

In a tight candidate market, it’s not the time to do the whole “oh well, if they don’t want to be a team player then stuff them” thing and head down to the pub with others in the team. That’s your ego and emotional immaturity dictating your behaviour. And it’s not smart business.

You need to be the one to recognise what’s going on and try to break the cycle. And it doesn’t take much to make people feel valued.

Thank them for a job well done

Two of the most powerful words in the English language are ‘thank you’. And they are not used nearly enough. When people feel acknowledged and appreciated they will do more and trust you more. And if it’s said in public, even better! It’s the ultimate recognition that the person’s contribution is valued.

Ask them for their opinion

In meetings or group discussions, be sure to draw them into the discussion by asking them what they think about whatever is being discussed. Having our opinion sought is a key sign that someone genuinely believes we have a contribution to make and that gives us the confidence to make it.

Make time for them when they ask for it

If they ask you for some time to have a chat, make the time available. People usually only ask for a meeting if they need one! Don’t fob them off or try to have the meeting on the spot because you’re in a hurry – nothing says “you’re not worth my time” more effectively than that.

Don’t stop inviting them to the pub

Even if they seem to be constantly unavailable, don’t stop asking them to join you and the rest of the team for an after work drink or a lunchtime walk. When we stop asking, people withdraw even more. And when they keep saying no, we stop asking, so they feel even less wanted. It’s a vicious cycle.

Ask them if everything is OK

If you notice someone isn’t ‘the same’ as they used to be, get a private moment with them and let them know you’ve noticed they don’t seem to be themselves and ask them if they are OK. Then listen to what they tell you – no judgment, no trying to predict where the conversation is going, no jumping in to defend yourself or the company if you’re uncomfortable with what feelings they are sharing. Just listen. It’s the only way you will find out what’s going on.

Have a goal setting session

People returning to the office and life becoming a little more ‘normal’ again gives you a great opportunity to do some 1:1s. Welcome them back, sit down and ask how they’re feeling and talk about what’s next. Get them engaged in some planning for the months ahead.

Check your employee loyalty barometer

Most employers haven’t bothered too much about employee loyalty through the cut and thrust of the pre-pandemic world and then relied heavily on it during the last 18 months. And because employees weren’t jumping ship they thought everything was fine but that was just head in the sand stuff. Employee loyalty is earned - have you earned it? You might be wise to check out the various Employee Loyalty programs that are available or book a meeting wtih your HR Manager/Consultant.

A stitch in time saves nine

Now is not the time to embark on an unexpected recruitment campaign. There are less people in the market, they take longer to find and will cost more when you find them.

Every time we lose an employee, we lose corporate knowledge, productivity and profitability. That’s not ideal at the best of times, and it’s even less ideal now as we all focus on rebuilding.

Don’t let it happen. Watch for the signs of disengagement and jump onto them quickly.

As my lovely Nana would say, a stitch in time saves nine.

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Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner

Bernadette Eichner, Cofounder and CEO of Just Right People, is a recruitment industry entrepreneur and thought leader in Australia, totally committed to improving the recruiter experience for clients and candidates alike. Her secret to life is to “just do the next thing that needs to be done”.

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