Unbeknownst to you, your employees may have made “getting a new job” as one of their new year’s resolutions. And that can spell trouble, considering that job postings skyrocket in January. Here are the signs to watch for in employees that could signal they are looking around—and changes you can make to help keep them happy where they are.
Signs of a disengaged employee
- Attendance issues
Noticing lots of sick days or someone regularly leaving early? That could be a sign that they are not only mentally checked out, but physically too. They could be using up accrued paid time off or they could be tied up with their job search and interviews. Of course, if they are allotted time off, you can’t question them, but this type of pattern should put you on alert.
- Less participation in company functions (both work and fun)
We get it, not everyone relishes hanging out with their coworkers, but what you want to look for is an abrupt change. Was a certain employee usually joining in group functions, like volunteer days or potluck lunches, and you’ve noticed them tapering off? Or, did they used to participate enthusiastically in staff meetings and now you get one word answers, or nothing? A distinct change in their participation could indicate they are cutting ties, so to speak.
- Reluctance to commit to long-term projects
Their lack of fire and enthusiasm might be the first thing you notice, but they also might be reticent to take on work that would ordinarily interest them. Someone who’s not planning to be around much longer won’t be invested in the team’s future, and that can translate into not diving into new projects. Or they might actually be being a team player in another way by avoiding letting their group down by taking too much ownership in something that they know they won’t be finishing.
How to stop the exit
If you’ve noticed these signs, you’re probably wondering what you can do to kept this employee around. (Or on the flip side, you might be hoping to hasten their exit if you feel that they have become toxic—but we won’t tackle that one; after all, HR professionals are the first to know what they can and can’t legally do in that type of situations.)
But there are strategies to consider that can help retain an employee with a wandering eye, or, even better, try to keep your employees from looking around in the first place.
If you have an employee who’s wondering if the grass is greener somewhere else, now is the time to reinforce that your workplace is so great there’s no way it possibly could be.
Some of the top benefits that employees want from their workplace are:
- Opportunity for advancement
- A feeling of purpose, as in, a sense of the mission
- Adequate training and professional development
- A manager who believes in them and makes them feel appreciated
- Open communication at all levels of the organization
- A feeling that their voice is being heard
- Camaraderie with the team
If you do sense that a valuable employee might be readying their resume, a good place to start is by talking to their manager—who might be the person who tipped you off in the first place—and gathering background on behaviors that seem out of the norm.
Then, without accusing, call a meeting with the employee in question to talk about how they are feeling about the workplace, and if they have any concerns. (And, while it’s on your mind, as you look ahead to 2020, note that regular check-ins with employees on their overall feeling about the company can help you keep a pulse on employee sentiment and help you meet their professional goals, thus making it less likely someone will blindside you by leaving!).
You don’t want them to feel threatened, but you want them to know that you care and want to help improve their experience if you can. After all, it’s much more fruitful for both sides to hold a “We’d love you to keep you happy” meeting rather than an exit interview as they head out the door.
Sometimes, of course, it’s impossible to keep employees content, as some aspects might be out of your control. But be sure to look for patterns in employee exits to see if you can stem the tide by proactively addressing common problems:
- Is there a certain manager who seems to be driving people away? They might need leadership training.
- Are employees consistently leaving for more money or better perks? Your compensation and benefits program might need an overhaul, if possible.
- Do employees want to work remotely? Look into ways you can provide even a modicum of flexibility.
By addressing potential workplace issues, you’re more liable to retain valued employees for the long haul—a win-win for all.