In a recent interview for the Fox Sports website, Dale Earnhardt Jr said his first few four years at Hendrick's Motorsports, he felt like "...maybe I was the odd man out or I just didn't fit in." He also said, "For some reason, I just didn't feel like I was a piece of the puzzle". From the dress code, which did not suit his tshirt and jeans style, to not feeling a stability within the team, he struggled to not only belong, but to compete. During those years, he went from a winning driver under the company his father founded to two seasons where he didn't win a race. He really wondered about his future at Hendrick.
Now, however, he tells a different story. He explains that, during the early years, he really didn't feel like he had anything to contribute to the team. He felt that, since he was losing, and didn't see any explanation for it, he wouldn't be able to provide constructive feedback. Then, he realized, he was valued as a team member and the owners really wanted to get his opinion, win or lose.
Dale Earnhardt Jr was unhappy. He didn't feel like he fit in and didn't feel his opinion was valued. He thought about quitting. But, after his owners found out, they fixed the situation before they lost him.
How many of your employees, if surveyed, would express the same sentiment? How many are unhappy and not feeling valued? How many are thinking about quitting? And, how many of them are actually people you would not want to lose?
Notice, pay was not a part of the equation for Dale Earnhardt Jr's unhappiness. The common misconception is that, if your employees are unhappy, they just don't feel they are getting paid enough. Not true. If you have unhappy employees, maybe they just don't feel like they fit in.
So, how do you find out what the issue is if your morale is dropping and you are afraid you will lose good people? You ask them. Send out a short employee survey asking if they feel like they are a part of the organization, and if they feel their opinion is valued. Better yet, meet individually with those you suspect of being unhappy and find out why. You may be very surprised at their answers.
If you discover people don't feel like they fit in, follow Hendrick's Motorsports' example. Let those employees know what they say matters. Include valued employees in planning efforts. Challenge them to learn additional skills and then let them use those skills.
Don't wait until someone leaves your team. Take a proactive approach and find out if they feel like they aren't part of the puzzle, then take action to rectify the situation. Otherwise, you may lose your own version of Dale Earnhardt Jr!