Regardless of the size of a company, the departure of a talented worker hurts. The employer loses a proven asset and must now direct efforts to finding someone to fill the gap. Such loss can be especially hard on small businesses. The dynamic of the whole operation can change as the limited number of remaining team members scramble to pick up the slack, sometimes in areas in which they lack experience.
Small business owners also may take resignations more personally than leaders at larger places. Strong bonds often form in small workplaces, and genuine disappointment can result from no longer having this worker around to help the business grow. The situation can leave the person in charge wondering if he or she “should have seen it coming” and fearing that others may follow suit.
People change jobs for so many different reasons that predicting who might quit and when can be quite difficult. Yet looking for signs that someone may be on the way out and acting on these clues may allow you to possibly influence the outcome. Be aware of these warning signals:
- Changes in routine. A casual dresser who starts sporting a better wardrobe probably isn’t doing so to impress you. Likewise, someone who suddenly takes longer lunch breaks or calls in sick more than usual may be using the time to job search or interview.
- Uncomfortable talking about the future. When a usually enthusiastic employee seems disinterested in discussing the company’s growth or becomes reluctant to commit to long-term projects, it may be because she does not see continued employment here as part of her plan.
- Subpar work. With other opportunities in the works, someone getting close to quitting may not see a need to put full effort into his current position.
- Exceptional effort. On the flipside (and reinforcing how difficult it can be to decipher behavior), an employee who will soon be on the move may feel obligated to put things in order before departure. He may finish a project much earlier than expected or take time to teach a new skill to a less experienced co-worker without being asked.
- A milestone. Major events in someone’s personal life can lead to rethinking career goals. Marriage, parenthood, or even having a “big” birthday can precipitate professional changes.
If you notice any of these potential red flags, initiate a conversation without being accusatory. Stress how important the person is to the company and inquire about job satisfaction. At worst, you might confirm your suspicion that the person wants to leave, in which case at least you have a bit of a heads-up. However, your concern may lead the employee to reconsider any current thoughts of new employment. And if it turns out resigning never crossed the employee’s mind, the valuable feedback gained from your discussion may ensure it never will.
Want more advice and resources for building your small business? Learn about the essential elements of a standout recruitment strategy.