If an employee walks into your office and says they are quitting and it takes you by surprise you have failed as a leader. Is that harsh? Perhaps. But to this employee retention speaker and employee retention author it is the correct judgment of that leader. If you are on top of things you should have known something was going on and should have done something to intervene and prevent it from happening. The signs are usually there, you just missed them.
A leader who is communicating with his people regularly, is attuned to their emotions and is inquisitive about what is going on if something out of the ordinary is happening. They WILL KNOW something is up and will begin probing before they get a resignation letter. If you suspect one of your people is unhappy…you are probably correct. When that is your suspicion you need to act. Letting an issue fester is not how to act as part of a proactive employee retention strategy.
A great leader will know immediately if something is going on and will proactively intervene to see if they can change the course of what is an inevitable resignation. The key is to be engaged with you people at all times. Talk to them, listen to what they have to say (or don’t say) and trust your instincts if you think something is wrong and then ask them if they are okay.
A good leader will also be tapped into the grapevine and be hearing the buzz. The grapevine is usually very accurate even if there is a lot of additional static that goes on. If you hear something in the grapevine, you need to assess if it is true, address it if it is and act on the things you know are factual. If you don’t know about something you need to inquire and push things up the chain of command to get answers or from your other sources in the organization. An astute leader has an intelligence network of people that keep them attuned to what is taking place in the organization.
A leader should NEVER be taken by surprise when someone resigns. In many cases, if you are attuned to what is going on it will never get to that point. You will know! When you do know, part of your employee retention strategies is to intervene and change the course of what is happening.