How to Reduce Employee Intention to Quit — and Tackle the Root Cause

The estimated average cost to lose an employee is $15,000. Here are ways you can keep intention to quit at bay.

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When employees quit their jobs, it’s usually without notice. This puts the employer in a jam, as the estimated average cost of turnover is $15,000 per employee lost. It can also cause staffing setbacks that force remaining employees to pick up the slack until a replacement is found.

While the employee quitting might seem “out of the blue,” they likely harbored the intent for some time before taking action. Keep in mind, too, that most quit-related turnovers could have been prevented by the employer. The goal, then, is to keep intention to quit at bay if it’s within your control. Below are strategies to accomplish this.

Recognize the signs of intention to quit

Since every person is different, there’s no definitive template for detecting when an employee is thinking about quitting. That said, there are some common indicators.

In Zenefits Employee Turnover Survey, respondents cited the following as top signs that an employee is planning to leave:

  • Decline in performance, due to not caring anymore about their work
  • Increase in negative social behaviors, such as engaging in gossip and exhibiting (undesirable) shifts in attitude
  • Absenteeism, due to spending more time out of the office or frequently calling in sick
  • Tardiness, or excessive lateness
  • Odd behaviors, such as new illnesses, increased private cell phone conversations, or  suddenly becoming uncommunicative
  • Seemingly innocuous conduct that might actually mean the employee is mentally elsewhere, such as scaling back on business travel or showing greater interest in learning new technological advancements

There’s no definitive template for detecting when an employee is thinking about quitting. That said, there are some common indicators.

Know the factors driving intention to quit

Although factors vary by employee, studies reveal an association between the following 5 variables and intention to quit:

  1. Job stress
  2. Work engagement
  3. Job satisfaction
  4. Organizational commitment
  5. Person-organization fit

Tackle the root cause

Remember, the workplace isn’t always to blame for an employee’s intention to quit. For example, the employee may have family or medical problems that need sorting out away from work. So, make sure you focus on the factors that are within your control, such as the previously stated 5 — which are covered next.

1. Job stress

A number of things can trigger job stress, including:

  • Heavy workload
  • Long work hours
  • Conflict with coworkers
  • Issues with management
  • Organizational changes
  • Unrewarding work
  • Job insecurity

If unaddressed, job stress can lead to physical and mental health problems, such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, irritability, cardiovascular disease, and workplace injury. Therefore, you should make every effort to curb job stress.

For example:

  • Deliver well-being and wellness solutions, such as mindfulness, resilience training, and personal development tools
  • Reiterate the importance of taking breaks and lunch
  • Provide PTO and remind employees to take time off
  • Offer a flexible work environment
  • Establish clear and realistic performance goals
  • Monitor employees’ workloads
  • Encourage employees to tell you when they’re feeling overburdened
  • Get the employee’s input when creating solutions for job stress
  • Manage employee conflict in a consistent, equitable manner
  • Keep employees informed on issues affecting their role and the organization as a whole

2. Work engagement

Work engagement is about the employee’s psychological attachment to their work. It is typically defined as a positive, affective-motivational state of high energy combined with high levels of dedication and a strong focus on work.” 

Studies show that when employees are engaged with their work, they:

  • Tend to approach their job with vigor, efficiency, effectiveness, and resilience
  • Are more likely to stay with the company longer
  • Have more creative ideas
  • Are more likely to be innovative and entrepreneurial
  • Usually thrive in teamwork environments

You can keep employees engaged with their work by:

  • Giving them with right tools to do their jobs
  • Knowing what motivates them perform at their peak
  • Assigning work that matches their abilities
  • Promoting change and development via challenging work
  • Offering training and coaching to hone their skill sets
  • Recognizing and rewarding their contributions

3. Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction refers to the employee’s level of self-motivation and contentment with their job. It involves how the employee feels about the job itself plus other facets of the workplace.

Job satisfaction refers to the employee’s level of self-motivation and contentment with their job. It involves how the employee feels about the job itself plus other facets of the workplace, such as salary, benefits, relationship with bosses and coworkers, working conditions, job security, supervisory support, recognition, and opportunities for advancement.

For instance, if employees are unhappy with their pay or the quality of their benefits, they’re likely to entertain thoughts of leaving.

To elevate job satisfaction:

  • Survey your employees to know what it takes to keep them fulfilled.
  • Measure to what extent you’re meeting your employees’ needs.
  • Make the required improvements (assuming they’re attainable).
  • Negotiate and compromise with the employee, if necessary.
  • Maintain ongoing communication with the employee to ensure their continued satisfaction.

4. Organizational commitment

The Oxford Review defines “organizational commitment” as the person’s psychological attachment to the organization.

Generally, the greater an employee’s commitment to the organization, the less inclined they are to consider leaving. For this to happen, you must inspire them to remain loyal to your company.

For example:

  • Develop a sense of community, so employees feel as though they belong.
  • Utilize a mentoring leadership style to help employees gain the confidence needed to achieve their goals.
  • Support employee development and promote from within.
  • Hold all employees accountable, including senior management, for their actions.
  • Address employee concerns in a timely and constructive way.
  • Minimize job stress and maximize job satisfaction.
  • Make People Operations a major priority.

5. Person-organization fit

Person-organization fit refers to the compatibility between the individual and the organization. It should not be confused with person-job fit, which is concerned with whether the individual can capably execute the job description. Person-organization fit is essentially about whether the individual’s values, beliefs, and expectations align with the organization’s mission, vision, and values — which are echoed in the company’s culture.

Note that according to research, companies using the person-organization fit strategy displayed significantly higher business performance than companies using the person-job fit strategy.

A good person-organization fit normally yields higher levels of engagement, productivity, and retention. Conversely, a bad person-organization fit often leads to disengagement, lack of productivity, and turnover.

The key to achieving good person-organization fit is to communicate your mission, vision, and values unambiguously to candidates so there are no misunderstandings between you. Then, strive to hire the best fit.

In conclusion, reducing intention to quit is a multifaceted initiative that can be achieved by recognizing the signs, knowing the contributing factors, and stomping out the root causes.

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