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How Do You Keep a Good Employee from Quitting?

I was reading an article yesterday entitled 17 signs someone is about to quit their job. I noticed a reader comment on LinkedIn saying, “This is great, but what can line managers do to prevent it?” Sometimes there is nothing you can do when someone has made up his or her mind that they have had it, but in many cases you can turn the ship around. Here’s how:

Talk to them!

The best way to know what someone is thinking is simply to ask. The content and tone of this conversation depends completely on the relationship and rapport you have with the employee. Let’s be honest: if you have a healthy record of open communication with the employee, it’s unlikely that you would be in this position of having to guess what’s wrong. It would have probably already have been addressed if the employee felt comfortable giving you feedback on a regular basis.

If you feel awkward having this conversation, try to be somewhat subtle. Ask the employee how work is going, if they have any concerns, and if there is anything you can help them with. Tell them that you value them and that you have noticed that they don’t quite seem themselves so you want to make sure everything is okay. If you’re not genuine they will smell it a mile away and it will only reinforce their decision to leave so don’t ask if you don’t plan to address the issues they raise.

(Hint: it’s best to have these check-in conversations regularly with all of your employees so you can avoid this last-ditch effort.)

Make it right if you can.
If you are in a position to fix the employee’s grievances (and they are reasonable), then do it right away. This will build back up a lot of the good will that may have been eroded by past actions or events. If you can’t fix it, explain why and offer alternatives. For example, if an employee is upset at not having been promoted by a certain point in time, perhaps you can offer advice on a career path that will get him where he wants to go, and provide him training to get there.

Give feedback.
Lack of feedback can suck the motivation entirely out of an otherwise high performer. The feeling that you’re doing work that is going into a void, unnoticed, is horrible. Even worse is the uncertainty that comes when you’re not at all sure how your work is perceived by your boss. Even if you have made this error in the past as a manager, it’s never too late to let an employee know that you value them, recognize their achievements, and set regular meetings to discuss progress. Even if some of your feedback is constructive, most employees will appreciate knowing where they stand. Disengagement is not a permanent state; it can be reversed if the conditions that created it are improved.

If you can’t keep them, at least keep on good terms.
As the employee’s manager, there might be a temptation to take their departure personally and get hurt. You can’t help feeling that way, but you can help how you react outwardly. Be sure to have an exit interview where the employee can give you honest feedback about why he is moving on. It can only help you grow as a manager and avoid any mistakes you may have made from happening again with someone else. Offer kind words about the employee’s contributions at the company and let them know the door is open if they wish to return. A national study of nearly 2,000 HR professionals found that nearly half claimed their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees, but 76% say they are more accepting of hiring “boomerang” employees today than in the past.

The best way to keep your employees from leaving is to communicate with them, constantly. They should know what is expected of them, how they are doing against those expectations, and where their future with the organization is headed. In some cases, letting an employee go is for the best, but if you value them don’t give up so easily.

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