In The Workplace

We have a low turnover rate, but just the same, we’re worried that our hard-to-replace workers may be looking for the chance to move to other organizations for whatever reason. Is there a way to anticipate their moves so we can respond proactively to retain them? — Blue Tab

There’s a saying — “dig the well before you get thirsty.” That means you have to be prepared for any eventuality, not just sudden resignation but the incapacity or death of your hot talent. The problem is that many of us keep forgetting this. What’s needed is a robust succession plan, apprenticeships, management development, technology transfer, golden handcuffs, and other related programs.

On May 21, I wrote about how to deal with hard-to-replace employees. In that piece, “How to Find Scarce, Hot Talent,” I discussed the twin strategies of conducting a forward-hiring program or an advanced apprenticeship for deserving college students. This must be supplemented by a poaching scheme designed to attract hot talent from all industries.

This is based on the belief that you can’t prevent a determined soul from leaving no matter how much you believe they should not be leaving. Harangan mo man ng sibat — even if you try to coerce people into staying, you won’t succeed, unless they have signed an employment contract which they need to see out. This is a free country.

Circumstances are changing. With or without them leaving the organization, you must be ready to fill any post as soon as possible. You can do this by talking on a regular basis to those people you value. That way, it might be possible to predict who might be leaving.

There’s no better approach than hearing directly from the horse’s mouth. Even if you do, be extra cautious as you don’t want to unnecessarily feed their ego, no matter how they appear to be indispensable. Now, what happens if they say they have no plans of leaving the organization, and yet there are signs are pointing otherwise?

Take it with a grain of salt. Trust, but be prepared at the same time.

Carefully weigh the things you hear from your hot talent. In this world, no one promises lifetime loyalty; by the same token, your company can’t promise lifetime employment. Be fair. If you’re studying body language, you can gain an idea of their intentions from the following:

One, unhappy people are unusually irritable even over small things. Those people who have plans of resigning are combative to people they hate, even to their bosses. American businessman and politician Matthew Bevin is right: “The ripple effects of small things are extraordinary.” And it could go both ways — either good or bad depending on how you read it alongside the other circumstances.

Two, they’ve become tardy or irregular in attending meetings. Does absence make the heart grow fonder or colder? In many cases, absence can explain a lot of things, but most of the time, it tells us that something is not right. In most cases, people who are thinking of resigning may telegraph their unhappiness by making themselves disappear for no rhyme or reason.

Three, they’ve shown an unusually low level of performance. People who have plans to resign sometimes make it known by sending in late reports. Even if not late, the reports may contain inaccurate information, which would stand out considering their previous performance. One telltale sign is that even if they’re physically in the office, you can see them doing something other than their assigned tasks.

Last, they habitually call in sick. They may think, one or two days of absence may not do any harm. They could be attending a job interview elsewhere. But if this becomes habitual and disruptive to operations, you may have to dig deeper. They may not admit it, but just the same, be prepared for the worst.

Don’t worry much about resignations. Manage only the things you can control. As I’ve said, you can’t prevent them from leaving. Take it easy. It’s not the end of the world. Have a closer look at your retention programs. Review them, if possible. If there’s another thing that you should worry about, it’s the timing of the resignation.

Usually, a person who intends to resign hands in a resignation late on a Friday, shortly before the close of office hours. What’s the significance of timing? If a boss wants to talk to a resigned person, they should have time behind closed doors to discuss all issues. Also, the resigned person is taking the advantage of a weekend for the boss to think things over.

The timing could also have an adverse effect on the company’s operations during peak season. If a human resource manager who is on top of negotiations with a union for a new collective bargaining agreement announces plans to leave, the loss of that person could be disastrous. In such cases, even a 30-day notice may not be enough for an employer to manage the situation.

If this happens, there is one major question you should ask yourself: “Do you really need that person?” The answer is obvious to any self-respecting employer. Cut clean and without bitterness.


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