Discovering that an employee is job searching is a tough pill to swallow. Maybe you heard whispers throughout the office that Joe’s been interviewing, or you received a call from an HR buddy that she’s got a resume from one of your staff on her desk.
Regardless of how you’ve found out that your employee is career hopping, how should you proceed? Do you immediately fire them? Try to win them back?
Here’s how we recommend handling an employee on the job hunt:
1. Chat with the employee’s direct manager or tight-knit teams.
Your first step is to discover what’s awry. If you are this employee’s direct manager, you may already have sensed the employee’s dissatisfaction, but if there’s another supervisor that the employee reports to— you may have to do some digging.
Whether it’s talking to the employee’s manager, pulling aside a trusted team member who works directly beside them or inquiring within nearby departments, see if the employee gave any hints of issues internally.
This is a delicate matter, as you don’t want to appear gossipy or scare your staff into spilling the beans. Remain calm and collected, and express genuine concern for understanding the situation before approaching the employee. Maintaining a kind and supportive attitude, focused on help and improvement, will likely encourage your staff to open up.
2. Ask yourself if they are a valuable contribution to your team.
Now that you have a general sense of the problems or situation that is prompting the employee to leave, it’s time to ask yourself the big question: “is this employee worth saving?”
If this employee is a top performer (or was up until a few weeks ago), it would be quite a shame to see them go. In the end, it can be quite costly to lose an employee, and you’ll likely dip into your pocket more trying to find another long-term replacement. Plus, you simply can’t put a price tag on an employee with a good culture fit. If this employee is worth fighting for, be prepared to negotiate and see what they need to feel motivated again.
However, if in recent months this employee has been slacking on their job, causing internal tension amongst clients or staff or showing signs of a bad culture fit, maybe it’s time to say goodbye. No company needs someone on the team that isn’t holding their weight or contributing to your growth, and unless you can address their problems and inspire them to reinvest in the company, sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and find better talent.
3. Ask them why they’re looking elsewhere, without judgement or guilt.
This is the hard part: confronting the employee. Just as you had to be thoughtful and non-judgemental when you asked your internal team for insights on the employee’s situation, you too must be understanding and kind to your employee when asking them why they are job hunting.
Anger, resentment, bitterness, guilt— these feelings have no place here. If you frame your inquiry around concern for keeping them happy or improving matters for future employees, you’re inviting the employee to have a candid conversation without fear of repercussions.
Perhaps during this chat you discover that this employee hasn’t had a raise in two years even though they dramatically contributed to your sky-rocketing sales, or that there is resentment between two departments that you never knew of.
Be cautious of an employee who says, “I’m just keeping my options open,” as there’s probably something they aren’t telling you. Gently remind them that you cannot help them or others in the future without knowledge of any internal problems they’re withholding.
4. Discover if retention is an option by offering fixes.
This is not the time to pressure them to stay by promising a slew of solutions and fixes that you think will make the situation better. Instead, ask the employee directly what they need from you to consider staying.
If it’s more money they want, negotiate a number that’s realistic for both of you or consider ways you can reward them beyond the salary, like with extra benefits. If it’s a cultural problem, dig deeper to find out what’s wrong and how you can make future changes to make the work environment better for the employee and future staff.
Be cautious of promising fixes in the future. If you promised the employee something, don’t lag on delivery. This employee wants to see immediate change, so think of ways you can offer “quick wins” now, even if some of the bigger problems may take a few months to address.
5. Prepare for the worst and draft a backup plan.
Even if you feel as though your chat with the employee went well and are optimistic about saving them, Forbes advises laying out a safety net— and we agree. While it’s wonderful to work on saving the relationship, it’s never a bad idea to prepare for the worst.
“While some retention efforts may work to postpone their departure,” Forbes says, “the smartest move you can make is searching for additional resources.”
This might mean lining up a contractor or freelancer to pick up the slack should you have a lull between when the employee leaves and you when hiring another full-time employee. Or it could be drafting up a job description and having it ready to list on job boards or an anonymous job network like GoGig as soon as you get the employee’s two week notice.
6. Learn from what you discovered and spot disengagement in the future.
Think bigger picture. Look for ways to make improvements so that a situation like this doesn’t occur again.
Maybe it’s wise to start implementing a bi-weekly check-in with managers and your employees— where the employee can share their feelings around their current workload, their work-life balance, stresses, successes, etc.
Brainstorm a list of ways you can improve matters around the office for everyone based on what you learned from your discussion. And don’t wait to start making those improvements.
One study outlined 10 behavioral changes that occur in a disengaged employee, and it’s a great place to start for learning about how to spot a disengaged worked in the future.
With the right insights, you may be able to spot an unhappy employee and help
them enjoy their work again before they have a chance to start hunting for a new job. Here are 16 ways to re-engage disengaged employees to invigorate your team.
Find the Right Employees
Sometimes it’s hard to find the right talent, or a person with the skills you need to succeed in addition to the personality fit that works best with your current team.
Search for candidates based on more than just their resume with GoGig. Learn more about their values and what they’re looking for in a long-term career, to ensure you two are the perfect match.
Sign up for a free GoGig profile, and we’ll help to pair you with employee’s with similar personalities and goals.