By: Paul Davis on September 26th, 2017

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Dealing with the Problem of Unwanted Turnover

Employee Relations

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that 3.2 million of the roughly 153 million workers in the United States voluntarily left their jobs in July 2017. What isn’t reported by the BLS is the number of employees who had expressed the potential desire to leave their company, only to be persuaded by their management team to remain with the organization.

This article explores:

  • Steps you can take when an employee indicates that they’re considering other employment options.
  • Why paying an employee more money to secure their continued employment isn’t always the only or best idea.

If you’ve had a valued employee on your team come to you and communicate that they’re thinking of leaving the company, based on the BLS data referenced earlier, you’re far from being alone. When managers in this situation come to me for advice, I recommend that they partner with HR to get a more holistic assessment of the immediate situation.

When Faced with Voluntary Turnover, Ask the Following Questions

While this assessment should be customized based on the specific situation, it’s always a good idea to consider the specific employee’s situation by asking the following questions:

  • Why is the employee thinking of leaving? While this sounds like an obvious first step, it’s important to have a respectful discussion with the employee in a private and safe setting to get the employee’s perspective. Common reasons and ways to address why employees leave companies can be found in this article.
  • How does this employee add value to the organization? Are they a high performer, in a key role, etc.?
  • How does this employee’s compensation compare to internally and externally comparable positions? Here's another great resource for learning more about compensation benchmarking.
  • Does the employee already have another job offer(s)? If so, try to understand how this opportunity is different from your company’s total rewards offerings for this employee.

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How to Determine if You Should Make a Counter Offer

Based on your assessment of the employee’s situation, there will likely be some actions that you can take that will reduce the chance that the employee will leave your company. Just because you can take these actions to retain an employee, when determining whether you should, be sure to consider:

  • Company practice and policy. If this employee is treated differently than other employees have been in the past, consider the potential consequences of the precedent that you are setting.
  • The nature of the fix(es) you’re considering. Think about whether these are short-term in nature and whether they address the root cause of what you’re trying to address.
  • The impact of giving a raise to the employee. It’s important for the overall and long-term health of the company that you pay employees competitively and in-line with your compensation philosophy.
    • If you pay an employee above what you consider their market value you are setting the employee up to likely receive smaller increases in the future.
    • Since their salary is then out of sync with your organization’s assessment of internal worth it will also be for the employee to transfer to any other internal opportunities in the future.
    • Your compensation philosophy may specifically target key employees and those with high potential. Make sure you understand the consequences of a key employee leaving the organization.

While this article has focused on more short-term and immediate steps to take when an employee indicates that they may be leaving your company, there are a wide array of systemic reasons that may be causing employees to consider other employment options.

If you feel like the amount of voluntary turnover at your organization is too high and/or it is above the average for similarly situated companies, consider conducting a formal assessment of the environment to get an understanding of the underlying issues. The best case scenario regarding high performing and key employees is to not let things get to the point where they’re thinking of leaving your company in the first place.

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