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Cut turnover by identifying disenchanted workers

by on
in Firing,Hiring,Human Resources

Most managers have experienced a situation in which a rising star in their department suddenly resigns.

Managers may feel shocked by such events. But if you know how to look for the warning signs of employee discontentment, you can often see such "surprise" resignations coming ... and take quick action to prevent a good employee from becoming an ex-employee.

While employees in your department may seem content, a new Salary.com survey says that 65 percent of people plan to look for a new job in 2006.

Being able to spot the signals of employee unhappiness gives you two options.

First, it allows managers to step in, address the problem and help retain the employee. Managers can affect the top reasons that employees leave.

Second, if the employee still decides to leave, identifying that "at-risk" employee ahead of time gives you a head start on making hiring plans and redistributing the person's workload.

Four signs of discontent

To spot a disenchanted employee, here are four key signs to look for:

1. Waning initiative. Employees who were once energetic now lack enthusiasm. They do just enough to get by and avoid extra effort. Their suggestions, questions and volunteering stop. They no longer say, "I have a new way to do that," or "Why are we doing it that way?"

2. Increased self-isolation. Employees tend to pull away from co-workers when they're dissatisfied and preparing to leave. They attend fewer lunches and are quieter when they do. They chat less in the office and during breaks.

3. Decreased effort. Employees arrive later, leave earlier, take longer breaks and spend more time on the phone.

4. Changing body language. There's less eye contact and fewer smiles. The lights in the eyes dim.

Run a salvage mission

If you suspect a valued employee is thinking about leaving, consider one of the following two approaches:

1. Initiate a one-on-one "stay" interview. Instead of waiting to do exit interviews when employees quit, you can perform "stay" interviews to find out what makes them happy or unhappy, and find out what you can do to make their job more fulfilling.

Start the meeting by saying, "I don't want to lose your talent. I can't make magic happen, but I need to know what's important to you and find out if I can address it, because your skills matter to this organization."

2. Or, bring others into the meeting. Identify people who have the greatest impact on the employee and form an "influence team" to attend the meeting. This type of approach works best with entry-level workers.

The influence team could include another employee, a manager or HR. The team can interview the employee, take notes on any concerns and develop suggestions for retention.

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