Unexpectedly losing someone in your organization is an unfortunate way to quash your business’s momentum and can become especially challenging during the usually slower summer months. Team members who have considered leaving you in the past and put their career prospects on hold to take vacations with their families, are going to start having a lot more time to consider any tempting offers that come their way heading into the fall, as competing firms start planning out their human capital needs for 2019 and turn up their recruiting efforts.
Ideally, though, you can head off any employees before they make the decision to leave… at least, if you can spot the warning signs first. Here are 10 signs that your valued team member may be looking elsewhere:
- Low engagement – This can take many forms, but usually is shown as less willingness to step up and take tasks and projects on, and/or not suggesting new ideas (when they previously did).
- Reduced productivity – Very easy to spot if team member was previously a high performer. Quantity and overall quality of work product drops substantially when employees have “mentally checked out” and are getting ready to go to another job.
- Negative attitude – Often in the form of initiating and/or increasing friction with existing team members, since they know they won’t be there much longer to have to deal with the fallout.
- Less interested in pleasing clients/manager – Missing deadlines, giving clients subpar service, and reducing communication with manager. Or, increase of sarcastic comments about work, company, clients, and other team members.
- Leaving work earlier more frequently – Sometimes it’s innocent, but this can potentially be to interview with other firms, and/or to utilize their health and PTO benefits before losing them if they’re planning to leave.
- Acting like they have something to hide – Most effective financial planners are skilled at reading people, since that is what you do with your clients every day, so you know how to tailor your advice, so they take action. Watch for employees that are acting like they have something to hide (though remember sometimes the reasons are personal, and not job-switching related), and also watch for reductions in communication with existing team members (e.g. not going out to lunch any longer, etc.).
- Hesitant to commit to long-term timelines – Since most people generally do not want to cause excessive harm to the organization, above and beyond their leaving itself, they feel guilty when projects with timelines that extend beyond the departure date they have in mind. In these cases, they will be vague, noncommittal, and try to avoid being put on the spot.
- Lost Enthusiasm for mission of firm – B.B. King said it best in his 1969 song, “The Thrill is Gone”. As people’s careers progress and lives change, their needs change, as do the firm’s as well, and find themselves no longer excited about what the company stands for, where firm is going, etc. We frequently take calls from candidates all over the country who become disenchanted with their firms, whether the work they do, or perhaps its high minimums (when they increasingly find a personal desire to serve previously un(der)served populations).
- Passed over for a promotion – It’s a necessary reality of business sometimes but can hurt feelings and bruise egos. If someone feels like they have delivered and aren’t recognized for what they feel they have earned, they will look elsewhere for a firm that will provide increased responsibilities, compensation and professional growth – and given today’s competitive job market for advisors, they will not have to look far. (This is also a reason to clearly state the requirements for promotions ahead of time. Better managing expectations reduces the risk of turnover for employees feeling like they aren’t getting the recognition they’re “due”.)
- Had a major life change – Substantial life changes often impedes logical thinking and causes people to make poor decisions. A firm we represent shared that one of their employees resigned to take a month off to tend to a new home purchase. In some cases, major life changes can also simply lead to a change in personal priorities, such as new parents who want to dial back time at work to be with young children (or conversely, new parents who want to dial up opportunities at work to pay for future college expenses).
Finally, if none of these are clearly visible, but you sense something is not right, trust your gut and challenge yourself to take a closer look at what might be happening. The starting point is simply to have a check-in conversation with the employee.
Stay tuned for next month’s article, on what actions you should take if you believe you do have a team member about to jump ship.