You Can’t Make Them Stay

exit-doorEmployers are always seeking out ways to predict human behavior. Which candidate will excel? Which comp plan will improve retention and drive the biggest results? Which employees will remain engaged? Which employees will burn out? Which employees are high risk? Which employees are planning to leave?

An HR technology vendor recently pitched their latest employee retention product to me. They believe they can predict (with alarming certainty) which of your employees are a flight risk. The algorithm they use to arrive at this conclusion is complex and expansive, but one key factor is the most predictive of an employee’s plan to leave—LinkedIn. After years of analysis, these researchers determined that people who are planning to leave their current employer not only check in on LinkedIn more often to network, but they like, share, and post more updates. 

But before you start closely monitoring your employees’ activity on LinkedIn, ask yourself this tough question: even if their social media activity has increased, what do you plan to do about it? You could confront the individual, but it’s unlikely that they will be honest about planning to leave. You could ask IT to block LinkedIn from work computers, but that won’t stop anyone from networking at home. It’s likely the only thing you will accomplish by confronting your team member is creating an awkward and uncomfortable working environment.

You can’t stop someone from being active on LinkedIn. You can’t stop someone from searching job boards. And you can’t stop someone from taking a recruitment call.

But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless.

You can control one major thing—you can make the job worth staying for.

If you create a positive work environment, with a collaborative team, where team members are competitively compensated while being appreciated and supported, then your team members won’t want to leave. You can create and communicate a vision that inspires others to invest themselves in more than just the job, but also the mission.

You will never keep your team members away from the temptation of a new job, but you can help them become more engaged in the bigger picture. Offer your employees a wide variety of projects and experience-building activities. Ask them what they want to do in the future, then train and coach them to achieve those goals. Become partners in each other’s success. A relationship built on trust, care, and mutual respect between manager and employee is the strongest way to keep outsiders at bay.

And then some day, when that isn’t enough to retain your team member, you will be happy for them when they leave. You will know that you did everything in your power to create a positive, supportive, healthy work environment, so if they’re leaving it means they’ve received an offer they can’t refuse.

You will never stop your employees from leaving, but if you’ve been the best leader you can be, you will set a high bar for any competitor wanting to replace you.