Turnover is a natural and expected part of doing business.  In the case of a problem employee, it can even be a welcomed event.  Being blindsided by the sudden departure of a top employee, however, can be extremely costly, stressful and disruptive to your organization.  Beyond the dollars-and-sense impact on your business, losing a key employee can also lead to:

  • broken teams;
  • lost business relationships;
  • disruption of your company’s social fabric;
  • lowered morale of the employees left behind;
  • essential knowledge loss.

The cost of losing a key employee is undoubtedly high – could your company be at risk?  Don’t be the last to find out.  Look for these classic red flags to alert you that an employee may be disengaged, dissatisfied or actively looking for another job:

Increased need for privacy. Is your employee covering his mouth, turning his back or looking to see who’s watching him when he uses the telephone?  Is he going behind closed doors – with other employees or with his cell phone in hand – more than usual?  While isolated instances of any of these behaviors are not necessarily cause for concern, be wary of changes in privacy patterns.  An individual who is looking for a new job, talking to prospective employers or sharing “good news” about a new job may display an increased need for privacy on the job.

Unusual requests for time off. Most everybody occasionally takes a sick day or needs to leave early for a personal appointment.  Suddenly poor work attendance or unusual requests for time off (with no explanation), however, may tip you off that an employee is interviewing.  Likewise, an employee who has landed a new job may try take his accumulated sick/personal/vacation days, fearing he will lose them if he doesn’t use them.

Major life changes. Death, divorce, marriage, birth/adoption or onset of major illness can all impact an employee’s ability and/or desire to work.  The best way to prevent one of these events from leading to an employee’s departure is by keeping the lines of communication open.  Discussing life changes with an employee allows you to consider shifting job responsibilities (temporarily or permanently), increasing flexibility or offering extended time off that may ultimately allow you to retain him.

Keeping others at arm’s length. While some employees can’t wait to tell co-workers that they’ve landed a new job, others clam up and become loners.  Watch out for the employee who suddenly starts lunching/taking breaks alone or distances himself in other ways.  If he’s dissatisfied with his job or feeling guilty about looking for a new one, he may not want to socialize as he normally does.

Marked changes in work performance and/or productivity. If your employee is looking for another job, he may stop caring about his current one.  Has your previously enthusiastic employee lost his interest and motivation – his “spark”?  Has the quality of his work suffered?  Are others having to pick up the slack for his mistakes or missed deadlines?  There are many reasons, aside from looking for a new job, that his productivity may be suffering (e.g., poor health, lack of sleep, personal problems, burnout, etc.).  As a responsible manager, you need to find out what those reasons are.  Approach him with open-ended questions to uncover and address the reasons for poor performance – and hopefully turn things around.

By proactively looking for the signs above, you may be able to anticipate or delay the employee’s departure, giving yourself time to find a replacement.  On the other hand, if the individual is a superstar you truly want to keep, you may be able to convince him to stay.  In either case, it’s always best to have as much lead-time as possible.  If you do lose a key employee, this article can help you make the transition as smooth as possible.

Recently Lost a Key Employee?

Snelling people have the skills, experience and that “little something extra” to fill the shoes of a key employee who has left your organization.  We will help you create a best-fit match that will keep your business humming.  Contact your local Snelling office today.