Market conditions are putting a squeeze on businesses. These, along with whatever other conditions are being felt, make retaining existing talent more critical than ever.
Here's what you need to know about identifying high-risk-for-flight employees and retaining them:
- The newest challenge for employers is competition with remote/hybrid work.
- Pay transparency is a beneficial way to avert the perception of wage disparity at your company.
- Use mentoring and onboarding techniques to acclimate the employee to the new role and responsibilities.
Attracting talent has never been more difficult, and retaining talent is even more challenging. In a normal market, attrition is a nuisance. In a tight applicant market, any amount of employee loss can be devastating. As the cost of living continues to rise, businesses are pressured to meet (or exceed) calls for higher wages. Some can meet demand; others can’t. Still, others are unable to hire at any price.
Other market conditions are putting a squeeze on business. The pandemic changed the workforce, causing many to simply opt-out for the foreseeable future. Whatever conditions are being felt, retaining existing talent is more critical than ever.
What are high-risk-for-flight employees?
Turnover is inevitable — for top performers especially. Be aware, though, they may be at high risk for flight. These are workers that are reliable and productive; the staff members you may find are difficult to replace. Identifying whether top performers are high-risk could avert a productivity problem and save on recruitment costs.
All staff members are at some level of risk for flight.
All staff members are at some level of risk for flight. They may be actively looking for another job or passively recruited.
Satisfied employees aren’t looking for greener pastures and are not responsive to people who contact them to ‘explore other opportunities.’ Identifying high-risk-for-flight staff members means examining these categories of employees who are:
- Paid less than comparable jobs in the area
- Confident or believe they are paid less than comparable jobs in the area
- Stagnating in their role
- Recently hired or recently changed roles within the company
- Experiencing major life changes
- Receptive to the lure of remote or hybrid work
Each of these factors could put an otherwise satisfied employee at high risk for flight. A careful review of each can lessen the chances these staffers even consider making a change. Below we’ve provided information to help you assess each of the indicators we just listed so you can gauge whether you have employees at risk.
Paid less than comparable jobs in the area
You may not know what the competition is paying, but your employees do.
To verify your pay practices are competitive, periodically review job postings in your area for positions you’ve recently hired for and for well-established positions in your company. Focus on difficult-to-fill/retain jobs and jobs with your top performers. Is the market offering more than what they’re paid in-house? If so, consider giving them a pay bump to ensure they know you value their commitment.
Believe they are paid less than comparable jobs in your area
A shocking report from Payscale found the perception of pay parity may be vastly different than reality. They found:
For employees paid at market rates in their area:
- 64% believe they were paid below market rate
- 30% believe they were paid at market rate
- 6% believe they were paid above market rate
For employees who were paid below market rates in their area:
- 83% believe they were paid below market rate
- 14% believe they were paid at market rate
- 3% believe they were paid above market rate
People who were paid above market rate in their area:
- 35% believe they were paid below market rate
- 45% believe they were paid at market rate
- 21% believe they were paid above market rate
In 2 of the 3 categories, perception didn’t match reality. Pay transparency is a beneficial way to avert the perception of wage disparity at your company. Keep current with market conditions, and don’t be afraid to ‘accidentally on purpose’ occasionally mention that your company is on par or above the prevailing wage in your area.
Employees stagnating in their role
Job stagnation can occur when employees are ripe for a promotion that just isn’t available. Promoting from within should be your first choice whenever there’s a vacancy, but turnover at the top may come less frequently than from the ranks.
Data shows more than 70% of high-retention-risk employees will leave the company to advance their careers. The solution to retaining them may be training. Offering training to prepare them for future roles emphasizes your long-term commitment to them. That could reap the same commitment for you.
Another option can be making intermediary bumps in responsibility that prep the employee for a slot that eventually will become available. Delegation is an excellent tool to engage staff members who may be stuck in a rut. It’s also a great way for managers to free up some of their time.
Staffers may not want more responsibility but may be bored with their work. Stretch projects and cross-training may be another viable solution. These are options to work on projects outside their regular duties or take training in other departments. Either can help re-engage an employee and expand their skills and view of the organization.
Employees recently hired or recently changed roles within the company
The chances of a new hire leaving the company within months of their start date are high. When new staff’s expectation of the work doesn’t match reality, you can expect job churn. To increase retention, make sure the interview process accurately portrays the job and the company.
Another key factor may be surrounding your onboarding process. Successful and engaged new hires begin with a welcoming introduction to the company. Those first few months can either create a long-term employee or another vacancy to fill.
When from within, employees may be in a similar position. The new role may not be what they expected if they don’t receive adequate support and training. For some, demoting back to their previous job isn’t an option. The result is that now you have to fill two slots instead of one.
Make sure the promotion is a good fit for the employee and the company to maximize the chance of success. Then use mentoring and onboarding techniques to acclimate the employee to the new role and responsibilities.
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Employees experiencing major life changes
Work/life balance sometimes shifts for employees to a life/work balance model. Their health, the health of a loved one, or family responsibilities can be upended and turn work into an impossible part of the equation. When significant life changes occur, prioritize offering your valuable employees a leave of absence rather than resignation, if at all possible.
Whatever the employee’s situation, there’s a possibility it’s transitory. The chance to take a paid or unpaid leave of absence as they deal with the issue can be a welcome option. Set loose parameters on how long they think they might be out — you may find an anticipated leave is shorter than the average time it takes to replace the employee and get the new person up to speed.
Review their need for leave with any federal or local laws. Attending to their own health or that of a loved one may be covered leave under the ADA or FMLA. As generous or flexible as your leave policies may be, they must also align with regulatory requirements.
Be flexible, if possible, making sure that extensions are on the table, if needed, to salvage and retain a great employee.
The lure of remote or hybrid work
The newest challenge for employers is competition with remote/hybrid work. The chance to do your job in peace and quiet (and in fuzzy slippers) has high appeal. For many, returning to the office post-pandemic, either part-time or full-, is a problem. These workers may be looking for the same type of work in a more flexible environment.
If you were able to maintain performance and productivity with a remote model, it might be worthwhile to retain that flexibility.
If you were able to maintain performance and productivity with a remote model, it might be worthwhile to retain that flexibility. Although some employees are anxious to get back to socializing and collaborating in person, others are content to work from a distance. Retaining top performers may mean letting them perform from the location that suits their needs.
Tipoffs employees may be at high risk-for-flight
Not every employee in these categories may be a high-risk-for-flight. There are indicators that can help you target those who might be and who you’ll want to concentrate your efforts on to retain. Look for these changes in work or attitude:
- Decreased engagement
- Reduced productivity
- Changes in behavior at work/less interest or engagement
- Changes in relationships/distancing themselves
- Shifting responsibilities or duties to others
- Attitude change or negative attitude
- Lower attention to detail
- Increased absences or instances of tardiness
- Unwilling to commit to future plans or projects
The new trend of ‘quiet quitting,’ or doing the absolute least amount necessary to keep their job, may be another indicator of an employee on the verge of flight. Consider whether the employee is worth salvaging. Were they once a top performer — reliable and consistent? Then there’s value in trying to turn that attitude around.
Fight the flight
If an employee is worth saving, consider the stay interview. These meetings remind employees they’re valued and that the company wants them to stay: which could be the impetus for them to recommit. If that’s not enough, stay interviews open the door to discussing why the employee is unsatisfied and how the company can help. You may find that if you’re open to making the slightest change, it is enough to placate and re-engage your valuable employee.
Ultimately all employees are at risk for flight. Staff members work at-will; they’re free to leave at any time, with or without a reason. Any steps that help minimize risk-for-flight are worth taking for businesses struggling to maintain headcount and productivity.
Even organizations with employees to spare know keeping top performers always pays dividends.