How to Ride the Great Resignation Wave

Experts warn of a surge of voluntary employee departures ahead. How can HR professionals prepare?

(By Kathryn Tyler, June 2, 2021)

Early Warning Signs

To maintain a stable workforce, HR professionals should analyze data available to them to help identify employees who are likely to leave. Here are some early warning signs that indicate employees may have one foot out the door:

Major life changes. “Keep an eye on who is graduating with an MBA or who is starting a family,” says Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, a management consultancy. “Big life changes often drive turnover.”

While such personal information can be hard to gather, developing good relationships and trust with employees can help, says Chad Paulson, senior vice president of HR at See’s Candies.

Missed promotions. Employees who are disappointed about being passed over for promotions might begin to look elsewhere for opportunities to advance. Keep a list of workers who applied for promotions, and check in with those who weren’t selected to ensure they feel appreciated and to help them better prepare for the next opening.

High department turnover. Look at turnover data by department, division and manager to pinpoint where higher turnover rates exist. The employees in those divisions are at risk of leaving if you don’t quickly identify and eliminate the problem.

Paulson made a surprising discovery when he investigated high turnover in See’s Candies plants a couple of years ago. “We weren’t conducting an annual review of the competitive market and hadn’t realized our pay had ceased to be sufficiently competitive,” he says. “By simply analyzing the market and providing competitive compensation, we were able to stem the tide and enhance our recruitment and retention efforts.”

Reduced communication. Employees who fail to promptly answer calls or e-mails or who miss deadlines might be considering a move.

“A quiet employee can just as easily be a struggling employee as a satisfied employee,” says Heidi Pair, assistant director of Renaissance Academy, a home-school and hybrid educational program. “Our instructional staff doesn’t meet in person during the summer months but uses that time to plan for their courses and build the virtual component for each course. For us, an early warning sign is minimal or no communication and little evidence of planning.”

Absenteeism. “Taking time off in the middle of the day shows employees might be doing interviews,” says Lance Anderson, SHRM-SCP, an HR and recruiting consultant at Anderson and Co. in Grand Prairie, Texas. Employees who are complaining, being less productive or job hunting online while at work might be considering a job change.

Don’t wait until they quit, Jezior advises. “Find out who you think is most at risk and start putting in some preventive measures today,” she says. “Who are your problem managers? Deal with them today.” —K.T.

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