Avoid Employee Turnover: How to Tell if You're Losing a Top Performer

By Robert Half on February 27, 2020 at 1:30pm
  • Employees who feel underappreciated, underpaid or unchallenged are big flight risks.
  • Absenteeism, social withdrawal, a decline in work habits and a negative attitude are warning signs an employee is considering leaving.
  • Reviewing compensation, perks and benefits is a key step to retaining the employee.

Every manager wants to avoid employee turnover — particularly when it comes to top performers. Do you know what signs to watch for?

The most valuable and driven professionals are deeply invested in their careers. But these employees can also expect a lot from employers in return for their efforts. They want their jobs to be a source of fulfillment and prefer to work for organizations that consistently recognize their talents and support their career growth. If standout team members feel unchallenged, underappreciated, underpaid or stuck in one position for too long, they’re apt to pursue greener pastures. 

If a key team member is thinking about jumping ship, indicators will likely appear well before you receive a resignation letter. Here are some potential warning signs:

Increased absenteeism. Unhappy employees tend to miss more workdays than their colleagues. Pay attention when an individual starts using up personal or vacation days because it could be a sign he or she is burning out or interviewing for other jobs.

Social withdrawal. Avoiding the more social aspects of work — like team-building activities or office parties — is common among employees who are considering leaving. Previously outgoing staff members may suddenly seem quiet, skip voluntary group outings or hole up in their office or cubicle.

A decline in work habits. Uncommon errors, missed deadlines and an overall decrease in productivity can indicate that a once-passionate employee is now just going through the motions.

A change in attitude. When a positive, team-oriented employee starts complaining about the organization or butting heads with coworkers, it’s often symptomatic of job dissatisfaction.

To keep top talent, take action as soon as you see sufficient evidence of the person’s intent to leave. Here are some tips on how to avoid employee turnover: 

1. Ask questions, listen attentively. Meet one-on-one with the employee and candidly ask if he or she is dissatisfied. When faced with a direct question, many people will respond in truth. If the individual says yes, ask why, listen attentively and explore possible remedies that would work for both parties.

2. Review compensation, perks and benefits. Salary is often the concern. Strong performers, particularly those in red-hot roles, are flight risks because they know their skills are in great demand today. Consult our Salary Guide to make sure your salary offerings are on par with (or better than) competitors in your area. Offering remote or flexible work options can also help you avoid employee turnover in many cases.

3. Show you take concerns seriously. If the employee is looking for more challenging work, consider offering new responsibilities that will stretch his or her skills. In addition, provide training opportunities to support the employee’s ongoing professional growth. 

4. Say thanks. One of the easiest and most cost-effective retention tactics is remembering to recognize people for their good work. Offering a simple "thank you" for a job well done can be surprisingly powerful employee engagement tactic. Prompt, sincere and specific praise provides an emotional lift and shows staff that you’re paying attention to their efforts and appreciate their contributions. 

5. Provide support. You can't expect top performers to work at or beyond capacity for sustained periods. When workloads spike, a staffing agency can connect you with the help you need. Temporary professionals or consultants can provide much-needed support to your core staff, and these workers can be brought in for short-term but critical initiatives that require time and specialized expertise your existing team may not have.

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