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Ex-employees never warned they wanted to leave

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “In the department I manage, we have recently experienced a sudden increase in turnover.  What concerns me is that none of the supervisors knew that their employees were planning to leave. I encourage supervisors to have monthly one-on-one meetings with employees, but this apparently isn’t working the way it should. What can we do to make people open up to management?”  —Frustrated Manager

Answer: 
You seem distressed that your former employees never confessed their desire to depart. But smart people don’t tell management when they’re considering other opportunities.  

Instead of trying to ferret out secret job-search plans, you should determine what is motivating your employees to look elsewhere. For this purpose, you need some additional tools in your communication toolbox.  

Continue the supervisory one-on-ones, but add quarterly skip-level meetings in which you talk with each employee individually. Even if people are cautious with their comments, you will have a first-hand opportunity to spot red flags.  

During these conversations, employees may be willing to tell you why some staff members have chosen to leave.  When people resign in the future, make it a practice to do exit interviews.

Finally, conduct an annual employee opinion survey using an outside vendor. When people believe their responses are confidential, they tend to be more open and honest. Then, once you’ve diagnosed the reasons for turnover, you can start to develop realistic retention plans.

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