You didn’t see it coming. One of your top employees has just submitted her notice. You didn’t know she was looking. You thought she was happy. Where did this come from? What are you going to do??
Have you had this happen? You may have felt hurt and disappointed. You wished she would have said something sooner. Your bank account will feel the pain too. According to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, the average cost of losing a good employee is $29,600. Now that’s an average, so this will vary by role — but these are the employees who know your customers by name, the employees who know drink orders without having to be told, the employees that your customer ask for by name.
Ouch. So let’s talk about what you can do proactively to prevent this situation.
Intentionally connect with them
We hear a lot of business owners say they have good relationships with their employees. They say things like “I have an open door policy” or “my employees know that they come to me if they have an issue”.
Here’s the thing: the employees you want to connect with and you want to stay are your high performers — chances are they will resolve their own issues. The employees who have the issues and will want your help are your mediocre employees. As a result, your time is being spent with the mediocre employees, and not the employees you want to keep.
Be intentional about connecting with your high performing employees. Make it a priority. Schedule time with them — and don’t cancel it.
Keep recruiting them
We hear business owners say things like we listed above — I didn’t know she was looking, I thought she was happy, I didn’t know something was bothering her, or I didn’t know she wanted something more. So, find out these things before they turn in their notice.
During your scheduled times when you intentionally connect with your high performing employees, start asking them deeper questions. Ask questions about what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to do in the future, how they want to be recognized. Some of our favorites include:
- “What do you like about your job?”
- “If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?”
- “What skills do you have that we haven’t utilized”
- “Tell me about a time you received recognition that you felt really acknowledged the work you did.”
Don’t bombard them all at once with these questions, that will feel like you are going through a checklist. Rather, sprinkle a few of these questions into each of your conversations. Don’t assume anything and be sure you listen to the answers. You will be amazed at what you will learn!
Kristen Ireland is co-owner of People Spark Consulting, a human resources strategy consulting firm that works with small businesses to achieve their business goals through their culture and people strategies.