The Turnover Warning Signs

4 min. read

There are tell-tale signs when someone is on the way out -- but we can do something about it long before the warning signs appear

Have you had a creeping feeling that something isn't right with someone on your team? Or a gut feeling that someone was going to turn in their resignation soon? You may be picking up on the subtle signs that someone is about to quit. According to research published in Harvard Business Review, you really can predict when an employee is about to leave based on their behavior. Let's take a look at the cues that typically occur when an employee is planning to resign in the next 12 months. The top (most accurate predictors) are:

  1. Their work productivity has decreased more than usual.
  2. They have acted less like a team player than usual.
  3. They have been doing the minimum amount of work more frequently than usual.
  4. They have been less interested in pleasing their manager than usual.
  5. They have been less willing to commit to long-term timelines than usual.
  6. They have exhibited a negative change in attitude.
  7. They have exhibited less effort and work motivation than usual.
  8. They have exhibited less focus on job related matters than usual.
  9. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their current job more frequently than usual.
  10. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor more frequently than usual.
  11. They have left early from work more frequently than usual.
  12. They have lost enthusiasm for the mission of the organization.
  13. They have shown less interest in working with customers than usual.

Most of these look pretty obvious, but experienced leaders know when they see these signs (especially when several are happening at once) that an employee is likely to leave. Also, many leaders develop a knack for picking up on very small changes in behavior like changes in facial expression, different choices of words in conversation, or subtle alterations to body language.

Perhaps the bigger question though: If an employee is leaving, why? Sometimes employees move on for reasons that have more to do with their fulfilling their personal vision for their career. But sometimes there are shortcomings in the workplace that led them to leave. Especially when there are multiple employees leaving around the same time, there may be critical shortcomings that are leaving employees feeling unhappy and ready to quit.

The conventional wisdom in management and human resources is to use exit interviews and stay interviews to get information on why employees might be unhappy. But these methods are reactive, meaning that they frequently give information when it is too late to use it. Much better is to build a consistent, safe, regular check-in. Workplaces with regular check-ins that ask, acknowledge, and honor feedback from employees have a much better chance to check turnover before it happens. Not only to check-in conversations catch issues early, they allow leaders to time and space to work with employees on developing their career in the organization.

Payroll and business technology firm ADP backs the idea of having regular check-ins. It notes research saying that check-ins should be at least weekly, and also quotes employee performance expert Amy Leschke-Kahle saying these check-ins are a "power practice" that builds employee engagement and drives down turnover. A study of data from StandOut (an ADP employee talent platform) shows that employees who received weekly attention were 2.7 times more likely to be fully engaged (the highest level of engagement) than those who received attention once a month or less. Engaged employees are simply less likely to leave.

According to consulting company Gartner, employee turnover continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down now. One Gartner expert estimates that over the next few years, turnover will be 50–75% higher than current leaders and HR staff have ever experienced in their careers. While this is an enormous challenge, a workplace can establish a significant advantage over competitors by preventing turnover before it happens. That means fostering dedicated, engaged teams who see a future where they already are.

Amazing Workplace's Smart Survey Platform gives workplace a way to see if employees are feeling listened to, valued, engaged, and much more. You can start getting a read on this now and get the Smart Survey for your workplace!