5 Ways to Identify an Employee Who Is Ready to Quit

First of two parts

There are few things that are more shocking to a manager then to have one of their top-performing employees suddenly quit on them.

Some managers have described it as the equivalent to a “kick in the gut.” It is a shock not only because losing a key employee will damage your business results, but also because managers hate surprises, and as a result, they frequently wonder how they missed the signals that this person was going to leave.

Employee turnover is always an important issue, but most managers are unaware of the fact that overall, turnover rates went up 45 percent last year.

Acting before it is too late

And because I am predicting that they will go up at least 50 percent this year, individual managers should be aware of the precursors or warning signs that can indicate that an employee is considering looking for a job, so they can act before it’s too late.

After 20+ years of research on predicting turnover, I have found that if you approach the problem systematically, you can successfully identify which individual employees are likely to quit with an accuracy rate of over 80 percent.

Firms like Google, Xerox, and Sprint, as well as several vendors, have developed processes for identifying who might quit. But for most managers, you must realize that you will simply have to develop your own identification process.

So if you know of a manager who is worried about turnover, pass this list of turnover predictors to them so they won’t be surprised when their next employee announces that they are quitting.

Even though every employee is different, most individuals who have or that are about to enter job search mode can be identified using one of these proven actionable approaches. They are listed with the most impactful approaches appearing first for the majority of managers.

1. Conduct individual “stay interviews”

Many firms use exit interviews to find out why an individual employee is leaving their job. Unfortunately, asking someone on their last day “why are you leaving?” doesn’t provide useful information in time to prevent this turnover.

A superior approach is to be pro-active and to use what is known as a “stay interview.” A stay interview helps you understand why an individual employee stays in their job by simply asking them in an informal one-on-one meeting to identify the principal reasons why they stay, so that these important factors can be reinforced.

As part of the interview, managers can also ask the employee to identify any major “frustrators” that have in the past made them, even for a moment consider leaving. As part of the interview process you can also ask your key employees to have the courtesy to provide you with a heads-up whenever they find themselves returning a recruiter’s call.

Holding a stay interview with an employee has the highest predictive value because it is customized to the employee and it occurs before a decision to leave has been made.

2. Search the Internet for indications

The best way to find out if an employee is searching or is about to search for a job begins with looking at their LinkedIn profile to see if it has been significantly updated recently.

You can also search niche and large job boards to look to see if they have posted their resume or you can do a simple Google search on this employee in order to find if they have recently updated their resume.

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You can even ask an Internet-savvy person to create a “spider” that will continually search the Internet for LinkedIn profile and resume updates that are made by your key employees.

3. Previous job tenure can predict

One of the most accurate predictors of when someone will leave a job is their average tenure in the last few jobs.

If an employee has a pattern of leaving a job after a certain number of months or years, it only makes sense to examine their resume to get a good indication of when they are likely to leave again. Obviously it’s better to underestimate their departure date, so that the worst that will happen will be that you will begin “too early” to try to retain them.

4. Identifying past reasons for quitting 

Most employees are consistent in the factors which caused them to leave previous jobs with the cause to consider leaving their current job.

That is why it is a good idea to ask new hires during interviews or as part of onboarding specifically “which specific factors caused you to leave your last jobs?”

Managers need to be vigilant in order to spot whether those past reasons for quitting may be reoccurring in their current job.

5. Identify those in high-turnover jobs

Frequently, employees get the idea to leave simply because other employees in their same job family are leaving to what they consider to be better jobs.

Managers should work with HR in order to develop what is known as a “heat map,” which simply indicates which jobs, teams, and business units are currently experiencing a high rate of turnover. Managers should then obviously target their own most desirable employees (i.e. innovators and top-performing employees) who are in those high turnover jobs for retention efforts.

Because research has shown that 50 percent of new hires are unhappy with their job decision and 46 percent of new hires fail within 18 months, it makes sense for managers to particularly target all recent hires in any job as high probability turnover risks.

Tomorrow: 5 More Ways to Tell If an Employee Is Looking to Leave

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

 

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