Ironically enough, in your organisation, it is most likely that your most productive and valid employees might be starting to look for better opportunities, rather than the lazy bunch you would fire yourself.

This is very often the case, and it has been an open issue that most companies of any size have tried to solve for good. Usually, if you are a large corporation, dumping a whole mountain of additional benefits ranging from pension funds, kindergarten on-site, company car, a gym and a chef, and you name it, does the trick.

But lately, priorities have shifted and other factors such as the enterprise’s long-term mission, your level of engagement in terms of social responsibility and climate-awareness are also other matters your staff might be silently taking into consideration.

Very recently, deep research on this matter has been completed on an incredibly large number of American companies, employees that have voluntarily decided to leave their current job, and their colleagues that experienced the process from outside. Harvard Business Review recently published the results of Timothy Gardner, an associate professor of management at the Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, together with Peter Hom, professor of management at the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, that led this massive study on 116 cues that might give us hints if one of our star-employees, is considering leaving in the next 12 months.

The legend has it that it should be as easy as finding some extra CV forgotten near the printer, finding your top manager wearing typical interview clothes, or noticing all of a sudden an important increase of requests for days spent visiting the “doctor”. With most of us working from home, in fact, this is even more difficult, and there are many more, at least 13, more subtle signs and hints that should enable us to prepare with more time in advance, for the sudden leave of our key Team Member.

It is also a very destabilizing factor for the entire team. An employee who lost his motivation, who is actively searching for a new opportunity might also become a very negative influence for all the other hard-workers who are very satisfied with staying at your valuable company.

So this is not a minor issue to take into consideration.

The final 13 pre-quitting behaviors that officially made to the list 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.

So what to do in case you see one of your best-performing employees engage in one or more of these attitudes?

Some large-scale organizations tend to address the menace of excessive turnover with programs aimed at increasing the motivation, job satisfaction and engagement of a whole department. But these are not only pricey measures, they also require quite some time in planning and applying. 

One solution could be to have regular 1o1 discussions with your key employees to further understand what motivates them and keeps them satisfied. Often organizations have ‘exit interviews’ to understand what pushed that member of your team to find external opportunities. We shouldn’t forget to value, and maybe even enhance, what is already working well, and that it could take us a minimal effort to offer more to our star-performing employees.

Another important factor that you might want to take into consideration is the so-called quick-leaves. There are, of course, no solid guarantees that anyone adopting the above behaviors is surely planning on leaving, but according to the specific industry and position of the employee, an unexpected leave at a crucial moment of the year could leave behind an organization hole that might leave bitter consequences in respect of your clients and the rest of your team. It is safe to monitor and communicate more often and deeply with the potential employee, therefore.

The fundamental principle of overseeing turnover is that everybody ultimately leaves. Yet, the “when” can feel like a secret puzzle to solve. While the above research and behaviors shouldn’t be viewed as the best way to distinguish a worker near quitting, it focuses on a bunch of practices that, taken together, can give some insight—and it limits practices that have erroneously been viewed as clear signs. So, whenever you have a notion about whether somebody is going to leave, realize that you might be onto something when you consider the correct pointers.

Arash Palizban

Partner Director

InHunt World