Retention and engagement have a strange relationship. Engagement can increase retention, but at the same time retention is quite apathetic to engagement. Your employees might be engaged, but as we all know there can be many external factors that lead to an employee’s separation with their employer, that have nothing to do with how engaged they are or how much effort you’ve put toward engaging them.
The Big Goodbye
Case in point: I had a highly engaged employee move on to another job. There was no dramatic build-up to her leaving; she simply found a good opportunity to turn a new page in her life in a new location and took it – we’ve all been there. But she gave three weeks’ notice, and made sure all of her loose ends were tied up and no projects were left hanging. She may have been leaving, but she never stopped being engaged with her work. You probably know the employees in your organization who would give three weeks’ notice. You also probably know the ones who would quit without notice or clean out their vacation days before departing.
Stay a Little Longer
The key here is not to misinterpret employee commitment to mean if they like a workplace, they will automatically stay. Commitment and engagement, while powerful, are fleeting, and the winds can change at any moment. That’s why we stress daily engagement, daily interactions. The idea is to use and encourage an engaged employee’s commitment to the maximum effect while you have them. Because if an employee is giving three weeks’ notice, there’s probably little, if anything, you can do to retain them. On the flipside however, they are more likely to stay around as long as they can to help ease the transition.
But all good karma returns to you given enough time, and those employees whom you’ve given deference to when they needed it the most generally end up keeping a strong connection with their former employers. Three weeks’ notice can turn into a fruitful freelance relationship, or a “boomerang” re-hire down the road. We’ve even had incredibly talented employees move on to start their own businesses, only to become valued partners later on. An employee giving notice doesn’t always mean the end – sometimes it’s just the beginning.
While keeping employees engaged can greatly mitigate and reduce turnover, it can’t eradicate it. There will always be people who leave because their fate is calling, and nobody can stop that. So the smart thing to do is behave as if any of them could leave at any moment, and try your best to make their time with your organization productive through daily engagement and emotional intelligence.