Are you worried about your employees handing in their notice of resignation?

A 2011 study by the Office for National Statistics found that 57% of people choose to leave their jobs. The remaining 43% are those that have to leave for another reason, such as redundancy or dismissal.

With the majority of people leaving their jobs by choice, what should you do about that constant worry that your employees are going to leave you? After all, there’s definite value in those long-serving employees that know your company, your product and your industry like the back of their hands.

When the resignation happens

If you’re paranoid about a staff member quitting, then the likelihood is that your fear revolves around one specific moment. That moment is the point in time that sees your employee walking into your office, handing you a piece of paper and announcing their plan to leave.

This isn’t when the resignation happens. The resignation happens some time before that moment, when your employee has made up their mind. It’s not a decision made on the spot, otherwise they wouldn’t have a letter that is printed out and signed. Before they resign, employees can spend months carefully considering their decision and any options that are available.

What you can do

When your employee is thinking things over, you’re already on a dangerous road. But, you still have time to act. If you identify this process early enough, then you might be able to tempt them back to loyalty. This might be a case of finding out what they’re not happy with and offering a solution, whether that’s a way for them to earn more money or a more effective system that reduces some workplace stress.

Providing flexible working hours, or even acting as mediator in an office dispute, can turn things around.

At some point, if an employee feels that their concerns have gone unnoticed or ignored for too long, they’ll make their final decision to leave. At this point you can do all of the begging and pleading that you want, but they’ll be somewhere between 95% and 99% committed to leaving. If you are going to offer something to encourage your employee to stay, it now needs to be a fast-acting miracle cure.

It’s easy to see why focusing your fears on the moment of resignation is the wrong thing to do. In order to decrease the risk of employee resignation, you need to be paying more attention to what’s going on day to day. Look closely and encourage communication, because you can never be sure which of your employees is going home each night and browsing job sites.

Do employees always plan to leave?

Some employees will need change, for whatever reason. These are the employees that will have made the decision independently. They might be unhappy with management, their job role, their working hours, their working environment, the company, their salary or wage, their colleagues, their work-life balance, the work location…the list goes on and on. The only way to know what’s really bothering your employees is to ask them, and to let them answer honestly.

Some employees aren’t planning to leave. It’s not on their mind until another opportunity comes up. Suddenly, with another opportunity presenting itself, they’ll run through how they’re feeling. This employee will now start deciding if they’re truly happy in their job, if they feel motivated and respected, if they feel that there are progression opportunities, if they like the people that they’re working with (and for), if they’re happy with their salary, if they feel secure, and so on. These employees weren’t quite as ready to leave, but if an opportunity comes up then they might start to think more negatively of their current role. If the opportunity that arises is a better one, then they might well choose to jump ship.

How you can keep your employees

You’re not going to keep 100% of your employees, without offering an incredible package of benefits that will suit each and every worker. That’s not realistic – even the biggest companies, like Google with its extensive employee benefits scheme and personal attention to each member of staff, will sometimes lose a few workers. And the truth is; only those workers can ever truly know their reasons.

This doesn’t mean that you should resign yourself to the fact that everyone’s leaving. You can take steps to keep people in their current jobs, and the first step should be to improve communication. If you open enough doors, giving your employees the chance to talk and to share their concerns, you’ll pick up on any unhappiness before your workers leave the building for good. The key is to pay attention to everything – office murmurs, quiet comments and every little issue that presents itself at your door. If someone’s found the courage to come to you with something that’s bothering them, don’t belittle their concern. Listen out for phrases like:

  • “I wish I saw a bit more of my kid…”
  • “No, I’ll skip this Friday’s visit to the chip shop. My bank balance can’t quite stretch…”
  • “Which of these tasks or projects should I be prioritising?”

Your employees will provide you with hundreds of little messages each day, indicating that things might not be perfect in paradise. If you can hear those messages, understand them and respond to them appropriately, you might just turn things around.

Don’t wait too long to find out the problem

If you’re attentive, you’ll find out what might be leading your employees to leave. If you leave it too late, you’ll struggle to get the information. Employees that have already handed in their notice will have rehearsed the ‘politically correct’ answer to explain why they’re leaving, so that they don’t burn their bridges with you and so that they can come across as professional in any interviews that they’re going through. “I’m looking for a new challenge” doesn’t tell you anything.

If your employees are truly happy, they won’t leave. There’s a risk involved in leaving a job, and it’s a risk that you’ll only take if you’re at least a little unhappy. And a little unhappy is sometimes all it takes – one workplace argument too many, one missed bedtime story thanks to a tight deadline at work, one credit card default fee that causes an argument at home.

As an employer, you know that lost employees cost a lot of money. You lose experience and skill, you have to pay out for recruitment costs or put out advertisements and there’s a time cost as you interview new candidates.

You’ll probably find that time and money could have been saved, along with a lot of stress and upset for everybody, if you’d just paid attention a little sooner.