Employee Separation goes bad & You didn’t see it coming | HR Hates this # 3
We all know that separation, whether voluntary or involuntary, cannot be eliminated but can certainly be minimized to a significant extent. It is quite established in today’s “Knowledge Economy” that employees have a significant impact on company profits and it is vital not only to retain employees but to also ensure productivity, work-life balance, happiness and a sense of purpose among them.
In this article, we are going to talk about “Ghost Employees” or absconding employees, as commonly referred to. For any HR professional, the worst thing to happen is to show up at work and get an email or receive a phone call from one of the managers saying there’s an absconding employee! That, for an HR, is bad blood on their hands and while no-one wants it, the more important question is what are we doing about it?
In the never-ending list of items an HR professional has to do, this needs to have a significant place too & all the more important if the organization is a small & medium one.
There are 2 types of Employee Separations:
- Voluntary (Resignation, Retirement)
- In-Voluntary (VRS, Layoffs, Dismissal, Terminations, etc)
In this article of HR Hates this Series, we’ll focus on only the absconding separations & what we can do about them.
What happens when an employee absconds:
When an employee ghosts or absconds the organization, it not only brings difficulty to the HR professionals but everyone around such an employee gets affected.
- The hiring manager is affected because he hired the said employee
- The supervisor is frustrated not only because his ego takes a hit but also because the team is low morale and now others have to share the work burden, leading to stress
- The organization’s reputation is impacted too, in the eyes of the clients & other co-workers
- Also serves as a bad example for other people on tipping line
There’s also a significant impact on the HR Professionals or HR Team of the organization because now they will have
- Significant pressure to hire/find a replacement quickly
- Compromise on the new hire quality due to cramped timelines
- Efforts to be spent to co-ordinate legal/termination action
So, the question is how can this be addressed?
There are 2 parts in such scenarios, both aim to address proactively to reduce absconding cases but the difference is that they are applicable in different scenarios.
Part 1 – Proactive Identification
Part 2 – Empathy
Part 1 – Proactive Identification
Proactive Identification aims to assess pre-quitting behaviours and open communication channels to effectively address such employees. The objective, as the name goes, is to identify the smoke and contain it before it becomes a fire.
Timothy M Gardner and Peter W Hom in 2016 undertook detailed research on this subject, assessed several thousand employees with hundreds of organizations over a 2 year period and concluded that the below 13 behaviours signalled are commonly exhibited by people who are evaluating a voluntary separation. They are as below:
- Their work productivity has decreased more than usual.
- They have acted less like a team player than usual.
- They have been doing the lower amount of work more frequently than usual.
- They have been less interested in interacting with their manager than usual.
- They have been less willing to commit to long-term timelines than usual.
- They have exhibited a negative change in attitude.
- They have exhibited less effort and work motivation than usual.
- They have exhibited less focus on job-related matters than usual.
- They have expressed dissatisfaction with their current job more frequently than usual.
- They have expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor more frequently than usual.
- They have left early from work more frequently than usual.
- They have lost enthusiasm for the mission of the organization.
- They have shown less interest in working with customers than usual.
All the above have 1 underlying lever viz. In comparison to a previous time. Also, it is important to understand that not all who exhibit such behaviours are likely to quit but their research has proved that most or majority of those who quit, exhibited the above behaviours – One, a few or all of them.
We have identified, what next? is common that pops up. Well, identification alone is not going to help.
Open Communication Channels:
We need to open communication channels with such employees. Talk to them, engage and try to find out if they are willing to speak their concerns out. Maybe there has been a life-changing event, or he/she feels disconnected with his new manager or believes something wrong is happening, hence distanced himself, etc.
“Opening up communication channels provides an opportunity for the organization to address the situation and delay if not prevent the separation”
There are 2 distinct things to do:
- Have approachable HR Team members
- Encourage Proactive Interaction beyond their immediate supervisors
Part 2 – Empathy
Sometimes how hard we try, we cannot prevent the separation. In this case, it is essential that supervisors, HR professionals& the employee, to not burn the bridges, ruin relationships and take separation personally. Afterall someone did say that ex-employees can be our best brand ambassadors.
It is necessary for the Supervisor and HR professionals to act with Empathy and be understanding of the employee’s concerns/situation at the same time not causing too much of organizational challenges. After all, no one wants a disgruntled employee around. Making him stay for more time than “just necessary” can cause more harm than good. A significant drop in performance, bad attitude, careless work output can be a few.
Some scenarios where Empathy could benefit everyone:
- Negotiate the notice period if the employee is convinced that the next opportunity is compelling for him/her
- Engage the employee for limited hours to assist in transitioning to a new resource, if the notice period is not sufficient
- Consider extended leave without pay in case the employee wants to quit to care for a sudden ailing family member
The point is to Be & Remain Human. Every employee’s situation is different and while there are policies and procedures, we need to understand that we are dealing with humans and not machines & Empathy will go a long way not only now but, in the future, too.
We hope it would have gained you some interesting insights. Watch the original video here!! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for future updates.
About the Author:
Akash Mahagaonkar is the Director at Relativity Management Solutions India Pvt Ltd and is a Business & behavioural finance specialist. He has over 12 years of management experience and serves as an advisor, mentor to a handful of Indian businesses some of which are startups too. You can connect with Akash via LinkedIn.