December 19, 2016
It’s always frustrating when a team member gives notice unexpectedly. You’ve got a full plate, projects are in process, and schedules are aligned around keeping everyone utilized. And let’s be honest—two weeks is not enough time to find, hire, and onboard a new team member. No matter what you do, when a key part of your team or your organization jumps ship, big gaps open up in your ability to execute successfully. While turnover has become a fact of business life, that doesn’t mean you have to be caught by surprise when someone finds a new opportunity. Unexpected employee turnover is entirely avoidable.
It’s amazing how many people believe that telling their manager they are unhappy with an aspect of their job will get them fired. As a manager, one of the best things you can do is ensure you make regular feedback a part of your conversations with team members. How can you do that? Here are some strategies for keeping communication flowing in both directions:
1) Schedule dedicated one-on-one time. As a team leader, you need to make sure you’re making time to meet with each person on the team at least once a month, and ideally more often. This time shouldn’t be full of status updates and tactical work, it should be a time to step back and talk about what’s working, where there are growth and development opportunities, and bring up any issues that might be simmering—before they come to a boil.
2) Develop a “No Surprises” culture. No one likes to be surprised at work. Employees don’t like to suddenly find out that their job has changed or been restructured, and employers don’t like to suddenly discover that someone has found a new job. Combating unexpected employee turnover is a two-way street. Both sides need to commit to a “No Surprises” policy, where information is shared as early as possible, and the lines of communication are open about anything that’s on the horizon.
3) Plan for change. While it’s true that we don’t like surprises at work, we also don’t like to feel stagnant. One of the main reasons people quit their jobs is a perceived lack of opportunity. Talented people enjoy stretching themselves and learning new things. Everyone on your team should have goals and development opportunities that give them a chance to keep their skills sharp, and add to their capabilities.
4) Recognize great work. Another big reason people leave for a new opportunity is that they don’t feel like they are recognized or valued for the work they do. While bonuses and raises are great, there are lots of other ways to recognize great performance. A quick email to the team with a shout-out, a gift card, or even an unexpected half-day off will do the trick.
In today’s workforce, the typical person changes jobs over 11 times in the course of their career. With average tenures in the low single digits, turnover has become part of the process for managers. But knowing that it’s going to happen, you have the choice to be proactive. Keep the surprises to a minimum, and you won’t be blindsided by unexpected employee turnover.