People are quitting jobs at record levels, leaving places they like in search of something they hope to love. As people set out for new horizons and staff become hard to find, businesses are scrambling to retain employees by trying to catch staff before they check out. But in a black-and-white approach to seeing the red flags, employers are proving colorblind--only to be left blindsided when good employees announce their resignations.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not just the disengaged employees who use up all of their paid time off, who frequently call in last-minute, or who become increasingly complacent who are about to quit. In fact, the reality is that it's oftentimes the opposite of these standard signs.
Because as odd as it sounds, it's not just that good employees turn bad when they are planning to leave, but that some good employees become better employees as they're planning to leave.
I was one of those people.
The process took months, and in hindsight, there are a number of things I did--like thousands of others--that might seem synonymous with an employee who plans to stay. But in reality, they were actually signs I was getting ready to go.
1. I became more engaged.
That's right, I become more engaged-particularly in meetings, team calls, and brainstorming sessions. Without any of the normal fears of sounding stupid or off-base, I could be more forthcoming with my thoughts and ideas. And without the pressure to give the right (or perhaps, popular) answer--and without a vested interest in seeking validation--meetings became what they should be: a breeding ground for free-flowing ideas.
2. I didn't take advantage of free perks.
Despite having a well-aged laptop and over three years with the company, I didn't use the expense account I was given access to for home office technology and equipment. Though I'm surely no saint, It didn't seem right to take advantage of a company-funded laptop when I was applying for jobs outside the company. For me, the value of goodwill was far greater than the free money.
3. I didn't use up all of my PTO.
In the end, I walked away with unused PTO--a sentence no one close to me would imagine I'd say. But I didn't feel the need to use it. Having been with the company for years (and a company that was very generous with PTO), I didn't feel like I needed to use up every minute, hour, even day. It might seem silly of me, but it was a way to be discrete about my job search as I didn't want to raise any red flags that I was looking elsewhere.
4. I got more connected with colleagues.
With the knowledge that I was leaving and would no longer have the opportunity to connect with the dozens of people I worked with on a daily basis, I worked to solidify the connections I had made. I got phone numbers and connected on LinkedIn, and even on less professional social networks like Twitter and Instagram. Because I knew I was no longer going to be connected professionally, I wanted to get more connected with my remote colleagues personally.
5. I became more invested.
In the process of exploring other options, I gave my job the old college try. After all, I had once loved it, and I truly wanted to love it again. So as I opened the door to exploring new opportunities, I had also explored the idea of staying. On top of that, employees who are planning to leave tend to seem more invested because leaving a job often means passing off your work--something the average person would prefer to do with pride.
While these signs might be admittedly difficult to see, I did wave one huge white flag: I told my employer I wasn't happy.
Businesses that want to keep staff need to listen to them. And, more important, learn from them. At the end of the day, an employer may not be able to get a staff member to stay who is looking to leave. But when the strangest Great Resignation strategy is also the more effective, you may find that your efforts to reduce your employee turnover rate might come with some surprising benefits, such as increasing workplace satisfaction by resolving the issues that drove others to leave.
Because in an effort to keep those looking to leave, be sure not to overlook those who stay.