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Retention red flags: How to identify the warning signs
Employee Centricity

Retention red flags: How to identify the warning signs

Sharon Monteiro
April 30, 2024

Pretty much every online and offline news and magazine outlet has something to say about the Great Resignation. A simple search on Google leads me to more than three hundred million results citing articles, statistics and opinions about the topical interest.

However, although the topic has peaked all our interest, it has also given rise to the growing concern about preventing such disastrous outcomes from happening in the first place.

Employee retention is one of the major focus points of workforce engagement and also makes up a sizeable portion of the HR department’s KPI. Retention isn’t just about keeping employees happy with half-measures such as appreciation; it’s about retaining talent and ensuring that the best people stay with the organization as long as possible.

In the US, in the past year, 3 to 4.5 million employees quit their jobs according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). Other statistics report one-third of new employees quit after about six months on the job.

Figures like this should be treated with a level of concern and urgency if employers want to fix the employee retention red flags in their company.

What is employee retention?

The practices, policies and overall strategy that is designed to retain the company’s best employees is known as employee retention. It is the best practice to reduce the turnover problem.

A company spends a lot of resources on attracting the best talent. Employees that remain longer with the company become an integral part of the company and the position.

If or when that employee leaves, the company loses a valuable member of the team. These employees are harder to replace, and it’s, therefore, wiser to retain employees and ensure that they remain motivated.

How do you catch the retention red flags?

How do you identify the warning signs of employee retention or the employee retention red flags that indicate an employee may be ready to abandon ship? Here are some indications you need to look out for:

1. Deteriorating work attitude

An employee’s deteriorating work attitude could be a telltale sign that they are considering leaving the organization. When an employee doesn’t meet every new challenge with the same gusto they are ordinarily associated with and instead turns distant, it could signal that something is not quite right.

2. A drop in the quality of work

It’s not unusual to see a drop in an employee’s quality of work once in a while. This could sometimes occur when the employee is under some amount of personal or occupational stress. However, when they regularly turn in work late or produce work of a subpar quality, it could be a sign that the employee has checked out and has lost interest in their current role.

3. Disengagement with co-workers

If an employee disengagement means that employee is frequently late to work or is a no-show to office activities, especially when they used to be regular volunteers and considered the “life of the party”, it could indicate a retention red flag.

4. Uncharacteristic absences

Uncharacteristically long lunches or employees that leave earlier than their daily routine may be out interviewing for other positions. An uncharacteristic absence could also apply to employees who have never missed a day of work except for scheduled vacations but are frequently taking personal days off.

Uncharacteristically using up their paid time off could indicate a retention red flag.

5. Shifty behaviour

When an employee starts to behave secretively, like minimising all screens before a manager walks up to them, they could be hiding their activities such as looking at job postings or checking out emails from prospective employers.

We don’t condone snooping around an employee’s personal workspace, but it is advisable to keep an eye and ear out for these warning signs to see whether you need to be addressing a retention red flag or just goofing off on the job.

retention red flags
Why employees are considering changing jobs in 2021

How to respond to retention red flags

1. Gauge job satisfaction

When you suspect that all may not be well, then it is a good time to ask people how they feel about their work, such as how interesting it is or how challenging they find it. Consider implementing effective one-on-one meetings with employees at regular intervals. Or if you want to gauge accurate employ sentiments, consider conducting anonymous surveys.

2. Help balance the burden for better work-life balance

When high-performing employees turn in lower-quality work, it could probably be because of high levels of stress in their personal lives. So, if an employee is experiencing an imbalance between work and life, managers can offer time perks like a flexible schedule, better telecommuting options, or even part-time opportunities.

If the workload is getting out of hand, it would be a wise option to hire a new full-time employee or temporary help. Employees must know that their leaders are doing the best they can to support them.

3. Increase the pay of top performers

Inadequate compensation is the top reason high-performing and good employees leave their jobs. If it has been some time since the compensation structure was evaluated, it is time to bump them up before employees seek better pay elsewhere.

4. Help employees recharge

However, even if employees are well-compensated, they will still be more likely to quit if they are continually stressed and overworked. Increase the chances of retaining employees by allowing them the freedom for work life balance. Consider options like flexitime, remote work, on-site amenities and generous paid time off.

5. Motivate them with opportunities for professional development

One of the key aspects of job satisfaction for motivated employees is knowing they have the potential for career advancement. If employees don’t see a way upward within the company, they’ll make their own way - out the door.

Keep high performers motivated by having regular discussions with them about in-house growth prospects, help them map out a possible career path, and let them know about the company’s willingness to invest in their professional growth.

6. Keep an open door policy

It is mindful to have regular check-in sessions with employees to listen to their concerns. This way, managers are sure to catch warning signs of employee retention or retention red flags early, and employees are more likely to see that management cares about their issues and they will consequently be less willing to leave.

7. Show appreciation

Showing appreciation for the work that one puts in is good practice and lifts employee morale. It’s never too late to keep a recognition program in place. Bonuses, gift cards, team outings or low-cost measures are effective ways to let high-performing employees know that they are valued members of the team.

In conclusion

Managers can collect all the data and signs in the world to try to understand the reasons behind resignations and warning signs of employee turnover, but the situation won’t improve unless retention strategies are executed proactively.

While tracking warning signs of employee turnover and retention is indeed the first step, the real work begins when these rates are assessed with relation to their industry and then identify what needs to be done to improve retention strategies.

However, the best retention strategy is to be proactive before employees start sending out warning signs. But, even when the retention red flags are waving, if you adopt the strategies mentioned before, you will still have the time and opportunity to turn the situation around and give employees every reason to stay.

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