6 Ways to Keep Your Employees From Jumping Ship

What employers can do to stem the tide of departing employees.

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With layoffs declining to a number lower than that of employees quitting, companies are going to have another issue to face in the coming years. This is especially true for companies that have taken advantage of the recessionary employment situation in the handling of their own employees.

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I know people who have lowered their employees' salaries because “they have to keep this job,” or have added on work duties to an already stretched workforce because “they don’t have the option to leave, since there are no jobs available.”

Mr. Employer: This is changing fast. According to the latest data from LinkUp.com, there are more openings than ever. There are jobs out there, and companies must realize that a few years of pent-up demand is about to be unleashed.

[See 7 tricks to fixing your lousy attitude.]

So, if you are an employer, what can you do now to stem the tide of employees shouting “I Quit!?”

Six things come to mind.

1. For one thing, as quickly as you can, make meaningful, if small, adjustments to salaries and work schedules. Certainly, opening up lines of communication and holding one-on-one meetings will be helpful to reestablish your company.

2. Remember that pay is always far down the list of reasons why people quit. “Soft” things like respect, culture, and environment all affect the employee who is daydreaming about greener pastures.

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3. Do not threaten or lie. I know companies like to describe how evil another employer might be, or how bad the products are. Typically this backfires when the employee realizes later that they were misdirected.

4. Be sure you make the effort to keep your key people. Sometimes in the frenetic pace we all keep, we often forget that our best performers--the people upon whom we depend so much--are also looking. It is almost human nature. We all want to be loved--at home and at work. So, don’t forget to show your key people some love at work. Simple things help: update them on new ideas and projects; compliment them; ask for their opinions; give them tickets to a game. Even a brief but sincere showing of gratitude will work wonders.

5. Next (and this is touchy, but I recommend it) I think you must let it be known that if someone quits, there is a company policy against hiring quitting employees. Before I get flamed here again for this, let me be clear that I do understand that every company is different and I know some make a practice of hiring ex-employees back. In fact, in my own start-ups, I have not followed my advice in every case.

But far too often, someone, particularly a younger employee, will quit just to try out a new job. If your company functions as a safety net, and you will always hire people back, rest assured that more people will test this part of your policy manual. Of course, doing so sends bad messages and creates all sorts of problems for you with the people who stay and remain loyal to you.

6. What else can employers do? I think now is the time to start new projects. New product development efforts should be increased and more people included in the process. Nothing excites employees more than belonging to an organization that is always investing the future and trying new things. If your people can’t brag about what is happening at the BBQ this summer, they might be looking around.

Obviously, if you have taken advantage of your employees during this crisis, and that management style has been pervasive among senior leadership, you are going to have some people quitting. And for you, I have a simple question.

What did you expect?

G. L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, which operates LinkUp, one of the fastest-growing job search engines. His blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com.


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