When you lose a valued employee on your team, immediately use it as a learning opportunity.
What are the takeaways?
Ask yourself and your team:
- Were there any warning signs that this employee wasn’t happy, and was there anything we could have done to remedy that?
- Did we do everything that we could to properly incentivize this employee?
- How do we currently show our employees that they are integral to the vision and mission of the business?
- Have we created a work environment where our employees have the space to be honest about their feelings and concerns, and know that they will be heard?
Happy Wednesday Wisdom, everybody. I am Katie McKenna, the Director of Coaching here at Thrivos Consulting. This Wednesday Wisdom is going to be about what we do when we get the dreaded, “can we talk?” from one of our employees. Now, we all know that nothing good ever comes from “can we talk.” Seriously, just ask my ex-boyfriend. It did not end well for him. Now, in work, this is the moment when our employee tells us that they’re quitting. And not only are they quitting, but they’re quitting without notice, and it completely blindsides us.
We know statistically and anecdotally that the reasons why employees leave a job are, number one, they don’t feel connected to the vision or the mission of the business, two, they don’t get along with their supervisors, and three, money and acknowledgement. They felt like they aren’t getting enough. And honestly, they want more. In this moment, our most powerful move is not to do the easy thing, which would be to just blame that person and be frustrated with them, but instead to dig deep and take a moment and ask yourself and your team a few important questions.
Number one, were there any warning signs that this employee wasn’t happy? And what, if anything, could have been done to make this employee want to stay after we’ve seen these warning signs? Sometimes we don’t know what these warning signs are. A few things to be on the lookout for is a shift in appearance. Now, that could be one of two things. The first thing could be that their appearance is looking better. Suddenly they’re wearing ties or button-down shirts and women are wearing skirts and their hair is done. That could mean that maybe they’re going out and that they are interviewing potentially on their lunch hour or when they have a doctor’s appointment. Now, the converse could also be true. Maybe if your employee’s looking a little bit more disheveled, they are maybe not having grooming as much, or their shirts are untucked, or it doesn’t seem like they care, they’re no longer wanting to make a good impression because they’ve sort of given up on the job.
Maybe there is the employee who was a superstar and suddenly you’ve seen a drop in their production. Maybe it could even just be that they’re not volunteering for opportunities in the way they used to. Or maybe it’s even that they’re doing their job, they’re doing a fine job, but it’s just that they’re going through the motions. There isn’t anything really passionate about their work. They’re doing the bare minimum, but it’s not as kind of “on the ball” as they once were. Another really big indicator but that is something that we don’t always notice is that they find ways to get out of accepting new assignments or maybe coming up with excuses for why they can’t take work trips in the future so that thoughtfully they won’t put you in an even worse position by not having work done within the necessary deadlines for clients or that you’ve paid for travel that they’re not going to go on.
Now, after we’ve identified what the warning signs are, the question becomes, what could we have done with this particular employee? And also, what will we do with future employees to make sure that we reengage with them when we see these warning signs? Now, this reengagement will be different for each person, but a great place to start is to open up lines of communication and to start conducting regular “stay interviews.” Ask them about their concerns, listen intently, and then take action on the items that you know are actionable and that they’ve got a really good point. Also, give the employee the opportunity to reengage with potential advancement opportunities so they’ll feel challenged and in charge of not only their learning but also their growth so that they’re not looking for different opportunities at other companies because they know that there are growth opportunities right where they are.
A second question to ask is, did we do everything that we could to properly incentivize this employee? Incentives can be incredibly important in creating significant levels of engagement from employees, and especially with those employees who really value deep personal meaning in their work. So they have shown that in today’s workforce the most powerful and also since sustainable incentive is appreciation and positive recognition. The best news about all of that for all of you business owners is it is 100% and completely free. That is way less expensive than hiring a recruiter or spending precious time or resources on vetting and interviewing candidates. So just making sure that you’re thinking about those employees who really seem to be delighted and happy about you affirming them, giving them positive reinforcement, and making that a part of your everyday.
Another question that you can ask yourself about the incentivization is, did we do everything that we could to fully understand what the incentives that matter to this employee are? There are people who really love money. I mean, money is great. There are very few people who are going to be mad at a bonus. But if you have an employee who is someone who thinks that they would really benefit from the opportunity to work from home every Friday, that might be a more important incentive than just throwing them a little bit more money.
The third question is, how do we currently show our employees that they’re integral to the vision and mission of this business? Now, if you just heard me ask that question and thought to yourself, “Katie, what the are you talking about? My employees don’t need to be connected to the mission and vision of the business. They just need to pick up the phone and execute on trades. Like mission and vision, that’s not really that important to them,” I’ve got to be honest with you. You are not alone. I have many clients who cock their head when I bring this idea to them about making sure that their employees are engaged. But many, many employees, especially gen Z employees, those younger employees, they really prioritize meaningful work above absolutely anything else. And when you share that mission and vision for your business, you make their position much more than a job to them. They believe that they are a part of something bigger, and that bigger thing provides meaning.
Once that employee has an understanding of what the vision is, ask your employees what part they think they play as a part of that mission. How are they moving the business forward? Asking them to define what they believe their part is in the business and in this vision and in this mission makes them even more engaged because they have defined it for themselves. It’s a process of almost like job crafting where they can figure out their importance and then move from there.
And the last most important question that you can ask yourself, and also your team, is, have we created a work environment where employees have the space to be honest about their feelings and concerns and that they know that they’ll be heard? Now, if the employee that we lost was incredibly important to our business and you as a leader had no idea that they were unhappy, this would be a really, really good time to have a frank conversation with your employees about the culture of your business. Do people feel like there’s space to be open, to be honest, to voice their opinions or the things that are making them happy without there being negative repercussions? If the answer is no, that there isn’t a space, this could be a really, really good time to integrate best practices of where you can take the pulse of your employee’s happiness.
And that doesn’t have to be in big open meetings, because that can be a tough thing, especially for younger employees to voice their opinions. It can be done through surveys, through 360 reviews. But then also, giving the opportunity for these interviews, again, these kind of like stay interviews, making that a part of your quarterly reviews or your business in general could be a very, very important thing and could make there be a higher likelihood that you won’t lose those employees that really matter a lot to you.
What all of these questions will do is give you more color on how you make your business a place where employees not only want to work but a place where they want to stay. That way, you’re making it a more sustainable, positive, and a better business overall. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to this Wednesday Wisdom. I hope that it’s helpful to you, your employees, and your business. Hope you have a great week.