When a valued employee quits, the loss can have a detrimental effect on the person's team and department and maybe even on the entire company. Not only can an unexpected departure lead to lost revenue, but it also could lower the morale and productivity of remaining employees.
As an HR professional, you can help prevent a dissatisfied employee from leaving. The key is watching for signs of discontent, working with the employee's manager and approaching the employee in a timely way to find out what's going on. With that knowledge in hand, you can then offer solutions and hopefully convince the person to stay and continue to be a productive member of the team.
Here are five steps you can take that may stop a high-performing employee from quitting.
1. Talk It Out
If you or the employee's manager notices signs that an employee may be ready to quit—he is disengaged, shows up late, takes calls outdoors or leaves work at unexpected hours (perhaps for job interviews)—then approach the worker directly to see what's going on. He might be dealing with personal issues, in which case the employee likely will share the news when asked.
"Don't assume they're quitting," said Jack Choros, HR manager at Sophisticated Investor in Toronto. "Just ask if there is a problem or a concern you can help with."
During this conversation, you will likely find out more, such as whether there's an issue you can help solve. "Maybe they just need to be heard," said Choros. "Maybe they have some constructive feedback and they want you to act on it. Maybe they don't really want to quit; they just have an issue that can be easily addressed."
2. Show Appreciation
If you're worried that an essential employee is going to quit, then start showing her how much you appreciate and value her.
"Everyone needs to feel valued," said Stephanie Crowe, head of global learning at Ingenico Group in Atlanta. "You can't stop someone from quitting, but you can prevent it by engaging them early and often."
For instance, Crowe recommended, thank employees regularly for their effort and commitment, praise them when they do a good job, and get to know more about their passions and interests and how they connect those passions to the company's purpose.
"The right reason to lose an employee is because of career growth, and that's OK—if you've given them every opportunity and it's time for them to grow somewhere new," she said. "But never lose a valued employee because they didn't feel valued. The responsibility for that is 100 percent squarely on you."
3. Offer Support
Employees may want to quit because they feel unsupported. They might take on more work than others on their team, not have the proper tools to complete tasks effectively or feel like management doesn't care about their well-being.
When you value employees, you also value their time and energy, so ask them what support you could provide to make their jobs easier and more rewarding, Crowe suggested.
"They may need help overcoming obstacles or barriers, from skills training to learning systems that are frustrating," she said. "You may not be able to solve all their problems for them, but offering support shows you care, and, quite frankly, it's also your job to enable the work getting done."
4. Put Career Goals in Reach
Many employees are interested in advancing at their company, but they also want to advance their skills and level of expertise.
Advocating employees' career growth could prevent them from leaving, according to Crowe. She recommended finding and connecting workers with sponsors and mentors throughout the organization who can help those employees grow their networks and find new opportunities to learn. This effort includes singing employees' praises to other company leaders.
"If you value them, you should try to progress their careers," Crowe said. "Be sure not to 'value' them so much you keep them stuck working on your team because they are 'just too good.' "
5. Invest in Employee Retention
Keeping employees engaged and satisfied should always be top of mind for HR professionals and people managers. Boost retention by reviewing compensation to make sure it's competitive, seeking new opportunities for development and finding out what employees want to gain from the job and company, said Chris Young, SHRM-CP, director of workforce development at the Texas Department of Transportation in Austin.
"All companies and leaders can do is make the best conditions they can for their talent and meet employees at least halfway to make sure they feel heard, seen and connected," Young said.
If one of your star employees wants to quit, it's in your best interest to do everything in your power to ensure he or she stays, he said. When you suspect someone is going to leave, don't hesitate to take action.
"Once an employee is ready to tell you 'I quit,' you've already lost them," said Crowe.
Finding excellent workers isn't easy, and you should strive to keep those employees engaged and happy in their jobs, said Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com in Calabasas, Calif.
"You want to surround yourself with team members who are ready to work hard and believe in your business so that the company and its employees may grow and thrive," she said. "Retaining excellent workers speaks volumes about the type of company culture and environment you have within the business—making it one that other talented employees will want to be part of, too."
Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.