The stats on the level of engagement in all organizations come out overwhelmingly against the boss. 66% seems to be a standard figure for disengaged employees, so let’s work around that. It starts with the top employee who can bail fastest and more easily than the others. Then it trickles downwards, so that means losing your team will be the next step.
The top performer’s departure can blind side you. They are the best for a reason. Part of that is they are tapped into the market and bring their best selves to every situation. Very often their exit will be discreet and sudden. You can rightly be shocked, although some would say that even that might indicate that you are not in touch as you might be. But for the others, there are a multitude of tells that let you know you are losing your team, they are restless and out there testing the market. This might be as active candidates, or actively passive candidates, driving traffic to themselves and raising their visibility.
Whether you have your head in the sand or the clouds, unless you get on the ball, it will trickle down the ranks, until eventually you will be stuck with a team that will not be top calibre.
Multiple departures is a sign that you have a cultural issue which needs addressing urgently. Becoming tuned into the tell tale signs that you are on the brink of losing your team can help you take pre-emptive action.
So how do you know you are losing your team?
- LinkedIn not Facebook activity: Lots of it. Maybe a professional head shot or a pimped profile that’s been written with a career coach or by a resume writer. There will be some sensible updates going out on matters relating to your sector, not “likes” of a mate’s posts or selfies. The smart ones will do this on an on-going basis, but most don’t. So this is tell number one for sure. They will connect with recruiters or contacts in other companies and will have forgotten to adjust their privacy settings. Some companies try to limit social media usage, thinking that is the solution to employee retention. But creating a firewall around your employees, isn’t going to stop them leaving. You have to make them want to stay.
- Improved professional image: gone is the faintly rumpled shirt or nondescript trousers which have had only passing contact with an iron. Suddenly the workplace outfits are going up a notch with some statement jewellery and jackets on hangers, instead of a puffa anorak on the back of the chair. Shirts are crisp and starched. Shoes polished and make-up touched up. She is dressed to impress and warning tell… it’s not for you.
- Looking for metrics: watch out for a deeper interest in budgets, KPIs, targets and numbers, as he embeds his activities with metrics using the Be FABulous approach to prepare his USP or elevator pitch or soundbites.
- Loss of interest in next year: Interest in next years’ activity will fall off. When there is barely a murmur about the bonus situation or summer party, you know you are in trouble. Your employees have opted out of even medium term thinking. Maybe you will see some passive aggressive behaviour, not meeting deadlines or poor time keeping. These are not necessarily signs that your disengaged employee is checking out the job search market. This is even worse news – they are so demotivated they can’t or won’t be able to leave.
- Networking: Instead of piling down to the pub, your team will be heading for after work professional drinks and events, clutching newly ordered business cards to pass around the room.
- Mysterious calls: taken in lowered voices in hallways or spare conference rooms. They are probably head hunters and recruiters
- Absenteeism: You will see an increase in requests for a few hours off, only one day’s vacation or recuperated overtime. The unscrupulous will take sick days.
If you see any or all of these tells, you should wake up and acknowledge you are losing your team. Don’t leave it until you have a high number of open vacancies to understand that you need to do something and fast.