One of your top employees walks in and hands in their resignation – you’re flabbergasted, you did not see this coming – or did you? Are there tell-tale signs that an employee is about to quit? And if so, what are they? And what can you do about it?

In this week’s blog post we talk about being able to pick up these ‘signs’ early enough and how you may be able to prevent turn over and keep your team intact.

Common Signs

According to Utah State University, in a recent 2013 study, employees that are about to leave their jobs give very clear cues that they’re about to leave. Here are a couple of them:

  • Sudden Illness

They’re suddenly taking a lot of sick days; lately they’ve been calling sick on Mondays; they could be taking hours off to attend job interviews. Of course, not everyone taking a few hours is planning to quit, but if the rate is unusual and continuous then that could actually mean something.

  • Lower productivity

A previously hard-working employee who regularly took initiative may grow to be slow and disinterested; they’re taking more frequent breaks whereas before they shifted effortlessly from one task to the next; they’re pushing back deadlines more often than usual – as employees become less engaged you need to be concerned, not just for whether they are planning to quit, but also if they’re really adding value to your team, and if they were an engaged team member before, what changed?

More Subtle Cues

However, some clues are not always the ones you might expect like taking more vacation time or leaving earlier each day, but rather more subtle in nature demonstrated in a disengagement from the workplace, such as not participating in meetings.

In a study conducted by Tim Gardner of Utah State University, the following are some consistent subtle behaviour changes people often make in the one to two months before leaving their jobs:

  • Being reluctant to commit to long-term projects
  • Avoiding social interactions with the boss and other members of management
  • Suggesting fewer new ideas or innovative approaches
  • Doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer going beyond the call of duty
  • Participating less in training and development programs

What can you do?

  • If you think one of your employees is truly thinking of resigning, the only way to find out and alleviate any concerns would be to ask them directly. Speak to them in person and emphasize their value to the firm and future plans and compliment them on their performance. Find out if they happy in their job and if they can see themselves staying on and working for your company in a years’ time. Ask them what improvements they think the organisation needs to make in the long run. Keep in mind, you can ask but that doesn’t guarantee an honest answer. If you can present a genuine concern and interest in your employees this does make a difference in the way they feel towards their decision.
  • Sometimes by the time employees exhibit (or employers notice) some of these behaviours, it may be too late for you to make a difference or to change their minds. According to CIPD, the best way to retain your employees is to stay in touch with them and address their concerns before they start looking at other options. Keep a “pulse”, an open communication with each of your employees – other than for monetary reasons, most employees want to work at places where they feel involved and recognised.
  • CNNN Money further suggests: At times, you won’t be able to stop an employee from wanting to resign and acting on it, but leave the door open for a return. Many times, former employees leave only to discover they’re not better off at their new job, and they wish to come back. Leave a return as an option for the employee by stating, “Our door is always open to you,” and continue to maintain contact, especially if it’s a star employee.
  • Please take note that while the warning signs presented in this blog post are good indicators, there could always be another explanation, perhaps more personal reasons (home life, family etc.) and opening communication is the first step to finding out the truth from the employee.

Have you noticed signs like these in your employees, present or otherwise? How did you deal with retaining them or letting them go? Share in our comments box below.

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