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Fight or flight: how to retain ‘flight risk’ employees



One of the more challenging aspects of building a resilient workforce is retaining talent, and mitigating the impact when an employee leaves.

Given over 6.5 million employees are looking to leave their jobs in the next year, it is crucial for organisations to understand and monitor the flight risk of its employees.

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While predicting flight risk is not an exact science, there are certain indicators that can help companies to identify and address it in an effective and sensitive manner.


Tell-tale signs

One of the most productive ways to approach flight risk as a business is to monitor the key factors that might give you an indication of the likelihood of an employee leaving.

Every employee is different, and a company will never have complete insight into each individual’s mind, but looking out for certain indicators can help a business decide where to deploy resources to most effectively retain talent.

On the whole, these indicators can be split into two categories.

Each employee will have personal indicators; factors such as individual workload, sick leave or the amount of disruption they have experienced recently in terms of team changes.

These can then be assessed against general indicators: patterns that can be seen at a job or team level.

General indicators can include the typical longevity an employee stays in a particular role of the average salary compared to industry benchmarks.

Layered on top of this are other aspects which can be helpful when determining how to focus talent retention efforts.

In particular, it can be useful to know how an employee engages with their colleagues on a regular basis, and how close the relationships they have with managers and peers are.


No one-size-fits-all

While the indicators above can give you some idea of the mindset of your employees, it is important to never fall into the trap of believing there is an algorithm for knowing whether an employee will leave or not.

For this reason, HR software that claims it can accurately predict flight risks should be treated with a healthy amount of scepticism.

The factors leading to a decision to leave are incredibly complex and mostly known only to the individual concerned. Emotional intelligence and common sense need to be a part of flight risk prediction; something machines cannot provide.

Additionally, it is key to understand that while employees leaving may affect your business, the reason behind it will be something that is personal to them so it is also essential to approach flight risk predictions with appropriate levels of sensitivity and understanding.

For this, retaining the human touch is key. Non-digital strategies, such as fostering open dialogue and tracking key indicators should form a major part of any company’s strategy.

Leveraging the insights gained from these strategies allows for proactive interventions, improving employee experiences and ultimately, long-term retention.

The human component of HR is crucial, and organisations should prioritise this, while utilising technology as a vital supplementary tool where needed.


Jeanette Wheeler is chief HR officer at MHR

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