human resources

Warning signs an employee is about to resign

Engel Schmidl /

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been taken by complete surprise when one of your employees hands in their resignation letter?

The panic of how easily you can find a replacement and ensure their workload will still get fulfilled can kick in pretty quickly! Worse still if they’re one of your superstar employees and you had big hopes for their future in your business.

This probably happens more often than most businesses would like and begs the question – how well do you really know your team? Paying a little extra attention to what’s going on in your employees’ world both professionally and personally can help you to proactively identify employees that are a flight-risk. This will then allow you to put in place plans and measures to ensure they don’t take off any time soon.

Disenfranchised employees are often those at the greatest risk of leaving your business in the short-term. Employees who are not inspired, engaged or don’t feel adequately challenged in their roles can often lack the motivation and desire to stay on and may have already started speaking to recruiters and jumping onto Seek to see what else is out there for them.

This may not be obvious in their day-to-day work and they might still be delivering results; however, look beyond the professional aspects of their role and see if there are any personal signs that give away their disengagement. If they suddenly stop attending things like Friday night drinks and no longer put their hand up to be involved in extra projects or work-related extra-curricular activities, this may be a tell-tale sign that their engagement levels and loyalty to your business is starting to waver. Similarly if all they talk about is non-work related stuff and they no longer show as much passion for their role and what’s going on in the business, this can be another indication that they’re no longer as engaged in their work.

Another effective way to help catch onto employees that are a flight risk is to have regular career conversations with them with a more personal touch that includes their aspirations both professionally as well as personally. Note: a lot can happen in a year and conversations of this nature shouldn’t be a once-a-year occurrence at performance review time. Also, we’ve mentioned this before, but let them in on your plans for their future within your business too – this can be a great motivator and the reason they need to stay.

This will also allow you to be aware of anything going on in your employees’ personal lives that might impact on their work and career plans so that you can accommodate for their changing circumstances where possible in order to retain them for the future success of your business.

The beauty of a small business environment, due to the lack of red-tape and bureaucracy compared to larger/corporate organisations, is that you can often give your employees more leeway to effectively manage their personal situations and ensure they stay as part of your team. Things like career breaks for travel, possibility of part-time work to accommodate for changes in family circumstances or allowing for study are all considerations worth thinking about if you’re keen to hold onto your talent.

Having said all of this, we’re of course aware of the fact that employees will come and go. However, if you’re keen to hold on to your talent then you need to be proactive in assuring their loyalty and that they have no reason to leave. Understanding them on a more personal level within a professional context will definitely help you do this. So rather than having career conversations that are all work, work, work try introducing a more personal angle and discuss their personal goals too to really get to know them.

Janelle McKenzie and Abiramie Sathiamoorthy are the founders of HR firm E&I People Solutions.

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