How to keep an employee who is ready to leave?


The nightmare of any HR manager starts with a valuable employee entering their office and saying, ‘We need to talk’. Usually, after that, they say that they have decided to quit. What to do in this case? In this article, we will look through the main reasons why employees quit, the ways to prevent it, and make valuable employees stay by reaching mutual satisfaction.

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How to keep an employee who is ready to leave? How to keep an employee who is ready to leave?

Let them go or make they stay?

The nightmare of any HR manager starts with a valuable employee entering their office and saying, ‘We need to talk’. Usually, after that, they say that they have decided to quit. What to do in this case? Force the employee to stay? Propose a counteroffer? Convince them to stay a little bit longer and look for their replacement?

In this article, we will look through the main reasons why employees quit, the ways to prevent it, and make valuable employees stay by reaching mutual satisfaction.

Prevention: How to make them stay?

According to HeadHunter, 55% of employers do not implement any tools to predict and prevent the team from quitting. 47% of them propose counteroffers and give a raise when a valuable employee leaves. 32% of employers promote them but sometimes only on paper. The rest of the respondents do not try to influence the employee’s decision at all.

They should, however. The US platform Peakon, together with an HR community conducted a study and found that the first signs that an employee was thinking about quitting had appeared 9 months before they left. Two million employees from 125 countries demonstrated common indications that helped in understanding their intentions as early as possible.

What mechanics will help track employees’ mood and prevent losing a valuable member of the team in time?

Team mood monitor mechanics:

  • the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) method for measuring employee company involvement. Employees are asked how ready they are to recommend the company on a scale from 0 to 10. The respondents are divided into three groups: from 0 to 6—critics, from 7 to 8—passives, and from 9 to 10—ambassadors. To calculate the staff loyalty index, the percentage of critics is subtracted from the percentage of promoters. 

In every area, there is a separate benchmark which is a loyalty index standard. In Ukraine, for example, it is +- 53. A good average result across the country is 0–30, 30–45 is a great result, and 45 and more is a model result.

  • the ESAT (Employee Satisfaction) method helps understand how motivated employees are to stay in the company and predict staff turnover. It can be implemented by pulse surveys with 4–5 questions, which require one-word answers: is an employee happy about their salary, office, schedule, or team mood. 

Four secrets of trustworthy and successful surveys:

  1. Anonymity. If you want to learn about the real team mood instead of the complementary data, you must allow the anonymity of the respondents.
  2. Stability. If you want to work with the real data, it is necessary to ask the same questions and evaluate the same indicators during the next surveys. This way, you can see the dynamics and adjust the HR strategy. 
  3. Share the results. The survey results should not be put away in a drawer or ignored. A team that is aware not only of the problems and growth points but also of further actions will feel more cared about and confident in the future.
  4. Retrospective. Surveys must take place with a particular frequency, and it is important to analyse the comparison of the result dynamics.

Why employees quit and how to make them stay

Why employees quit and how to make them stay Why employees quit and how to make them stay

Everyone can be replaced, especially in business. However, there are employees whose resignation can badly affect the company and who are hard to replace. According to internal HR labelling, such employees with high potential and leadership abilities are called HiPO (high potential employees).

The SAS Institute founder James Goodnight said that ‘95% of my company’s assets get in their cars and go home. My task is to create working conditions that will make them want to come back the next morning’. 

After an employee has decided to quit the company, it is hard to make them stay. Even the best counteroffer cannot make someone stay forever after the idea of resignation has deeply rooted in the employee’s mind. In general, these people quit in a year or two anyway. Therefore, it is an important task for HR managers to prevent such thoughts and moods from forming in the team.

People may resign due to reasons that are connected as well as not connected to the business. The ones that are not connected are relocation, change of marital status, or the decision to try another occupation.

However, some factors that can be influenced by an employer: 

  • salary
  • working conditions
  • work organization
  • corporate culture
  • promotion opportunities
  • training

The US platform Peakon found the reasons that made people think about a job change: 

  • Company business involvement. Any person needs to understand the purpose and value of their job which are not always expressed by a salary or corporate benefits. When tasks are easy and lack purpose, an employee does not understand how their job influences the business or can be useful. 

According to the US Gallup Institute, 49% of employees are not involved in the company business. Therefore, they are not loyal to it and can easily quit because of a better offer.

What to do: The best way to deal with the low level of involvement is to prevent it. If the employee has already received an offer from a competitor, a one-to-one meeting is necessary, during which you can discuss with the employee the reasons they quit and propose a counteroffer. For example, if the employee is tired of the routine, the solutions may be to transfer them to another project or provide a new technology stack, advanced training, and new areas. 

  • Uninteresting tasks and boredom. If a person does not have an opportunity to develop and they perform routine tasks automatically, whether they want it or not, the idea that something must be changed will appear. According to the Gallup Institute, 40% of employees quit in the first year of employment if they do not receive enough support and development opportunities during the first months. People even leave Google if they do not understand how long they should wait for a promotion or what to do to get it.

What to do: A one-to-one meeting and drafting a forward-looking professional growth plan. If you try to stop an employee from quitting, it means that the company sees their professional growth possibilities. Therefore, it is necessary to convey this vision to the employee by explaining the next steps and periods for professional growth, discussing the weak points that are stopping them from going forward and eliminating them which will thereby result in a particular benefit.

For some specialists, their status plays a significant role: in this case, even a nominal promotion without a job parameter change may help. Steve Jobs found a simple solution for this problem at Apple: he named some linear positions ‘geniuses’. Who would like to quit the job where they are called a genius?

  • Salary. The second part of understanding the value and importance of a job is a fair reward for it. If its level does not match the number of applied efforts, or the salary is not sufficient to create comfortable living conditions, sooner or later, the employee will get tired and quit. However, not only the level of salary can be a stumbling block. The paradox is that, even if the employee considers their salary sufficient and fair, the inability to discuss it with the management and receive reasonable feedback will add up to the idea of quitting.

What to do: Discuss the expectations regarding salary, compare them to the company capabilities and propose a counteroffer.

  • Conflict. Neutral or friendly relationships between team members is a must-have for a well-functioning business. If there is tension or undercover tampering, sabotage and other unacceptable communication forms between employees, someone’s resignation will be the expected and logical outcome. Mostly, linear employees quit the company: at a minimum because a manager has more means of influence on subordinates and can make their job hell. 

What to do: A lifehack from the Fortune list companies. Experts recommend redesigning the work process to detect and ‘neutralize’ the toxic person. This can be achieved by providing a separate office or remote work for the person who initiates conflicts. If the influence of a negative-minded person is too strong and starts to destroy the team, the employer must consider firing them. Sooner or later, the destruction will become bigger than the value of such an employee.

  • Overtime. The deadlines and crises that set everything on fire happen everywhere. In general, in companies where employees feel gratitude and support for their efforts, there are no problems with occasional delays. However, if overtime work has become a part of the corporate culture, and the employee's family sees them only in a dream or in a photo from work events, the possibility of quitting increases greatly.

What to do: Fix the schedule. To do this, it is important to identify the cause of the constant overtime work: ineffective management, problems with the time management of a particular person, or a lack of specialists, which increases the load on the team.

  • Underestimation. According to the HR platform Humanity, less than 80% of managers praise their employees at least once a month, and only 22% of their employees can confirm this fact. For many people, recognition of their achievements is an important emotional driver in their job, the key to loyalty to the company, and the desire to work ‘faster, higher, stronger’. 

What to do: Plan one-to-one meetings, retrospectives as well as material and non-material rewards for achievements and successful results.

  • Lack of support Each person has their own supply of strength and stress resistance. Sometimes an employee decides to quit the company because they burn out and break down due to internal personal reasons and problems at work. 

What to do: For example, in the United States, there is a special staff support programme that allows employees to get advice from a psychotherapist, lawyer, or financial specialist. It is important to understand that the reasons for quitting may not always lie in the work problems and, if possible, help with the personal circumstances that stress out the employee. For example, if a person decides to quit because their work ends at 7 pm, and their child’s kindergarten closes at 6 pm, then the company can convince the employee not to quit by being understanding and making the schedule flexible. Some companies, e.g. Google, Apple, and BMW, go further and even open their own mini-kindergartens or kid’s rooms.

To influence the decision to quit and avoid the employee transferring to a competitor, it is important to keep a finger on the pulse of the team’s mood and act in time if any vector is receding. If it so happens that a colleague has made a final decision to quit the company, it is worth conducting an honest exit interview. It will help analyse why people quit, find growth points, and create an HR strategy so that employees will not want to resign.

Most of the problems that make good employees quit can be easily resolved by establishing honest and timely communication within the team. 

Author: Тетяна Демахіна
Category HR
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