The biggest headline in the staffing world right now is ‘New Year, New Job’. Put it into Google and you’ll get over a billion results. For business leaders and hiring managers concerned about their employees leaving in droves, I have good news. In my experience, reports of January job-hunt mania are hugely overinflated – certainly when it comes to your star employees.
For top professionals, the only thing that will tempt them away is a great opportunity and these can come up at any time. Bonuses and budget years also have their own impact – in the City, people typically hold on until after bonus time to look around.
In case you do hear of your people being headhunted, here’s my advice on how to react based on my professional experience (yes, ironically the headhunters in my team also get headhunted), plus some thoughts on keeping your employees happy and motivated all year round.
Don’t be afraid of your staff getting headhunted
My theory is that the good ones will stay with you, the others will leave. That’s provided – as a leader – you’ve created a career and environment they want to be in. I’ll come back to that.
I’m also not afraid of people testing the waters by listening about new opportunities, as long as there’s a balanced view at the end of it.
A cry for help or a genuine job?
You tend to find out your staff are speaking to headhunters at one of two points: when they first get called, or when they’ve got a job offer.
If someone tells you they’re being called, it’s generally a cry for help. If they’re one of your top employees, this is an alarm signal and a sign you need to invest in them in some form (pay is not usually the big issue – see below). If it’s someone whose long-term place in the company you’re not sure of, support them exploring other options.
One insider tip: sometimes headhunters call because they’re trying to find out information. This can be flattering to the recipients’ ego, but might not actually mean there’s an opportunity for them right now. So, hearing that your staff are receiving calls from headhunters might not mean anything.
If someone tells you they have a job offer, again if they’re in your top 20%, find out why they’re thinking about taking it. If it’s about money, let them go. Getting drawn into a Dutch auction rarely works. If it ‘s something else, find out what you can offer to keep them. If people really want to go, they’re unlikely to tell you until the ink on the new contract is pretty much dry.
Be confident in what you offer
Top employees are rarely motivated to move by money alone. But, you need to be confident that you’re offering what you can in terms of total package – money, benefits, career progression and training. If you’re underpaying people then, to be blunt, more fool you.
Make sure you nurture employees, supporting their career progression. This way, the only ones who will leave solely for a salary increase are the job hoppers, forever chasing a pay cheque.
January blues is real. So is August blues.
A number of articles will suggest this is a good time of year to set extra incentives and competitions to beat the January blues. I agree. Not because you’re afraid of people leaving, but because you want your workplace to be enjoyable. So, don’t stop at January – I also run incentives in August to combat quiet holiday months, and do random competitions if it seems like a quiet week. It’s always the right time of year to create a happy, motivated, office.
Finally, if you want to be worried about any month – watch out for March. In my experience, that’s when the market really moves.