How to retain a talent who wants to leave the company?

A good staff member wants to leave the company. How can they be persuaded to stay and and a counter-proposal formulated?

Too low pay, personal dissatisfaction, conflicts between colleagues, organizational changes…  there are many reasons that lead to resignation. “The first question to ask is, why does the employee want to leave the company now, what precipitated this decision?,” begins Stéphane Simard, human resources author and speaker. So before making a decision, it is necessary to fully analyze the situation and consider several possibilities.

Offer a raise or a bonus. This could be a good strategy, if pay is clearly a part of the reason for leaving. However, it has its limits and could even have a negative effect due to the image conveyed to other staff members. “When an employee wants to leave, there is often a reflex to retain them at all costs by offering them more money, but this is usually a short-term solution,” notes Mr. Simard.

Offer a promotion. If the employee expresses a certain frustration, the company can investigate development possibilities to offer him – more responsibilities or a job in another department.

Mr. Simard warns however that in both cases the decision should never by motivated by the threat of departure. “Be careful not to fall into a form of blackmail; under threat, we give the person what they want,” he adds. In addition, empty promises can cost the company more than seeing its talent depart.

Offer an improvement in working conditions. In some cases, the desire to leave the ship comes from a misunderstanding or a promise made at hiring and then not kept. Finding a gesture of conciliation is then an interesting road to pursue. For example, if an employee wants to quit because the schedule that he had been initially assured of has not been respected, settling this could be sufficient to make him stay. “Sometimes it’s a personality conflict; the employee doesn’t get along with his colleagues or manager – in this case it’s important to see if he can simply be transferred to another department,” says Mr. Simard.

That said, the best strategy remains to avoid pushing retention too hard and to rather be proactive, Mr. Simard believes. “Unfortunately, when the employee has decided to leave, the point of rupture has often been passed, and it’s hard to change his mind,” he notes, insisting on the importance of the exit interview. He believes that instead of keeping the person at all costs, the company should learn from the situation and make an introspection, in view of preventing resignations from spreading. For example, if the reason for leaving is pay, the organization could review its pay practices for all of its employees.

Identifying employee frustrations, through regular meetings, whether relating to management, organization or work methods, will also help make adjustments ahead of time. The company can then decide to invest in training, offer more coaching or review its organizational structure. “The departure of an employee should always be a signal for a company,” concludes Mr. Simard.

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