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How to stop your best employees leaving

The New Year is traditionally a time when disgruntled employees consider
making a change and dusting off their CVs – as many as 1 in 4 employees say January is the most likely time for them to leave their roles.

The third sector had a staff turnover of 20% in 2009/10, significantly higher than the 13.5% UK national average, and expectations of increased stability in the economy is likely to make this percentage even higher this year, as employees feel more confident about leaving their existing jobs.

So how can not for profit organisations tell if their valuable staff are considering leaving, and address underlying issues before they lead to a resignation?

Look for danger signs in your staff

Employees often make changes in their behaviour when they are feeling unhappy at work.  It is important for managers to pay attention to these indicators and not ignore them.  Typical warning signs include:

  • Increasing lateness or absenteeism

  • Drop in productivity

  • Employee seems stressed or hostile

  • Employee is much quieter than usual

  • They request holiday one day at a time

  • They stop volunteering and are not enthusiastic

Get to the bottom of the problem

If a manager spots any of the above changes in an employee’s behaviour and suspects they might be considering handing in their notice, they need to act fast to discover the underlying reasons.  Arrange a meeting with the staff member and keep probing to get to the bottom of the problem – don’t simply accept the first answer given.  It is important to listen to the employee’s answers and not to give your opinions of their situation or jump to conclusions.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming all problems are salary-related.  Most employees cite pay as their reason for leaving, and in some cases this is true, but it is often used as an excuse as it is a ‘safe’ and incontrovertible answer.  As long as an employee feels they are being paid adequately, more money won't buy more motivation or loyalty.  For more information on motivations for non-profit employees leaving roles, see TPP’s recent Fundraising Recruitment Survey.

Look for solutions

Once you’ve got to the bottom of any problems an employee is having, it is vital to come up with a plan to solve them, or at least stop them escalating.  Together with the employee, a plan of action should be agreed on, and the manager must take responsibility to ensure that it is pursued.  Each action point should play to an employee’s strengths and should be an actual, not just verbal, change.

Solutions you might consider include:

  • Changing the employee’s role

  • Adjusting the employee’s level of responsibility

  • Flexible working

  • Increased employee recognition

  • Better internal communications

What if they have already resigned?

If an employee has already handed in their notice, but their loss is likely to drastically effect your organisation, you may wish to consider making a counteroffer.  However, any successful counteroffer is likely to require a financial incentive, which will make the employee question why they were not receiving that level of pay before.

The counteroffer with the greatest chance of success will consist of a package of solutions, such as increased responsibility and recognition, together with a pay increase.  Of course, it is always better to make sure that such a valued employee never gets to this stage.

Is it worth the effort?

Before undertaking any action, you need to weigh any possible consequences against the value of the employee.  In some cases, the departure really is best for both parties. An unhappy employee is difficult to manage, tends to disrupt the effectiveness of his or her team, and will most likely leave eventually anyway.

However, for your most talented people, a concerted effort to solve their problems can lead to them becoming even more motivated and loyal to your organisation.

How TPP can help

One of the best ways to increase your employee retention is to hire the right staff in the first place.  Taking your time and getting expert advice can help you find exactly the right person for you team, meaning they are more likely to stay long-term.  TPP’s consultants are sector specialists who can give you advice on benefits and remuneration packages and make sure you find exactly the right employees.

For more information, contact TPP Recruitment on or 020 7198 6000.