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How to Keep High-Value – but Dissatisfied – Employees

Developing your talent is an investment of time and resources, but well worthwhile. Your lead employees are usually a driving force and the go-to people who have the knowledge base to keep your initiatives moving forward and successful. This is why it’s critical to ensure these employees are engaged with their work and the company. At a minimum, losing top talent disrupts workflow; it can also result in an expensive and lengthy process to recruit and train replacements. Therefore, it’s imperative that when you sense high-value employees have become dissatisfied employees, you are proactive in addressing the situation.

Know the symptoms

Identifying the early warning signs of dissatisfaction in a high-value employee can give you time to meet with that employee regarding any concerns or frustrations he or she is feeling. If your first indication of dissatisfaction is a letter of resignation, it’s probably too late to convince that employee to stay, even with a monetary incentive. By the time an employee gives notice, they have already determined the job is no longer a fit and taken action.

Instead, be engaged proactively with your talent and look for warning signs of dissatisfaction. Most employees will be hesitant to have an open conversation with their managers regarding feelings of dissatisfaction. More likely, you will hear or see the signs first, whether it is negative “water cooler” conversations or listlessness in meetings. There may be abrupt shifts in behavior, with a move toward negativity or—surprisingly—toward more positive behavior. For example, has an employee who was previously lackluster suddenly become more efficient, positive or engaged? It could be a sign that she or he is working hard to leave with a clean conscious.

Alternatively, if you find that a team leader has suddenly stepped back or is absent from meetings, take that as a warning sign. Also, be aware of employee arrival and departure times. An unhappy employee is often eager to leave right on time and may be less prompt in the mornings.

Listen and respond

Once you have determined that a high-value employee appears to be dissatisfied, initiate a check-in with her or him. It’s possible that the warning sign you see may result from a personal matter overflowing into the workplace or office relationships that have become rocky. What is important is to listen and respond when employees do open up. Show that you want to remediate the issue if possible or, at minimum, care enough to ask.

Set goals

Do your employees have a clear idea of what is expected of them? Without this, they may feel that they aren’t set up for success. Having clear work goals and expectations is an important part of coaching your employees, and they will look to you for it. Try to set aside time for one-on-ones with your employees and use that time to set new goals, review expectations, and discuss future opportunities within the company. This will give you an opportunity to show them their potential at the company and invigorate them with different responsibilities.

Create mentorships

If your employees are not comfortable talking to you freely about their career goals, help them find a different mentor. Although a mentoring relationship is not always an easy match to make, a respected colleague or professional connection of yours outside of the organization may be a good fit and a welcome sounding board. Guiding your employees to a mentor will give them a safe outlet for discussing their career goals while also giving them a source of unbiased advice and opinions.

Show appreciation

It may sound simple, but can you remember the last time you said “thank you” to your team? We all want to feel appreciated and that our hard work is noticed. Dissatisfaction can often stem from feeling overlooked or unappreciated. Public thank-yous, employee incentives, or a new assignment are good ways to re-engage high-value—but dissatisfied—employees.

Know when it’s time to move on

If your employee has mentally checked out or has revealed that he or she is actively looking elsewhere, it may be time for both of you to move on. Employees who are looking to change to a different industry or move geographically for personal reasons are circumstances where you have little, if any, influence. If an employee is intent on quitting, it may be in your best interest to encourage him or her to leave sooner rather than later to avoid further disruption to your team’s workflow. This is the time to focus your attention on energizing and retaining your remaining team.

If you are interested in learning more about employee retention through rewards, incentives, or recognition call 800.543.7373 or contact us to speak with our specialists today.