Employee Turnover: Can We Predict Who Is About to Quit?

Sections of this topic

    “I was totally surprised when one of our top people quit. I thought he was satisfied with his job. I don’t want to get sandbagged again. What are some early warning signs of someone leaving?”

    That was said to me by an accounting supervisor. Yes, you can expect a certain amount of turnover, even in these tough economic times. However, if it’s a valuable employee who you now have to replace (which takes time and money), you certainly don’t want to be caught by surprise. If you can see the signs ahead of time, then you are better able to deal with the situation.

    Be Proactive Rather Than Reactive

    First, be aware of situations that can trigger job dissatisfaction and provoke a valued worker to start looking at what’s out there. Here are some examples:

    • The major project ends and there is nothing “in the wings”.
    • The mentor or friend or manager left recently and therefore could try to recruit this employee.
    • A new manager is assigned who may or may not be as great as the employee’s last one.
    • Major reorganization occurs and the employee doesn’t know his or her place or value.
    • Recent stock crash or options went underwater and therefore there is less financial commitment to stay.
    • Position of increased visibility (holding office in a professional association) that gets the person known outside the company.
    • Changing life events such as receiving an advanced degree; turning 40 (or 30 or 50); family divorce or death etc.

    Then go into action to prevent key people from “jumping ship”: Here’s what you need to do:

    • Identify high performers or special groups who might be vulnerable.
    • Find out their satisfaction level through surveys or focus groups or one-on-ones.
    • Use this knowledge to improve the potential “looker’s” job and career opportunities.
    • Realize that one size doesn’t it all. Know your people and what motivates and demotivates them.

    Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book, First Break All the Rules said “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” If employees don’t get along with their managers, don’t like them, or don’t respect them, they will leave a company despite a high salary or great benefits. A bad manager is a big factor in employee performance. A good manager, no matter the salary, will inspire loyalty. Therefore focus your retention efforts on training and supporting all your managers to engage, motivate and develop their people. If they don’t do it well one else – a competitor perhaps – will!

    Management Success Tip:

    Employee turnover is a complex issue. There is no one magic bullet. What I have consistently found is: That it’s NOT the money. When someone leaves for ‘better opportunities’, what has happened is that certain dissatisfactions – like ineffective management- caused the person to put out feelers or to become curious about recruiter calls or start surfing the job boards? So to stop turnover, start to identify and eliminate the demotivators. Also, see 10 Things to Do to Have Engaged Employees.

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?