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Can you tell when an employee is planning to quit?

October 4, 2017

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

There are the obvious signs we all see when someone is job hunting…they show up in a suit when it’s a casual dress code, they suddenly have numerous appointments, they call in sick more often, etc.  But a recent study shows that for months prior, there are many more subtle signs to beware of.

Tim Gardner, an associate professor at Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, conducted a study on voluntary turnover.  His findings revealed 10 warning signs that an employee is likely to leave:

  • Employees become more reserved and quiet.
  • They no longer offer constructive contributions during meetings.
  • They show an increase in reluctance to commit to long-term projects.
  • They no longer display an interest in advancement.
  • Displays a lack of interest in pleasing their boss.
  • Social interactions are avoided with their superiors and other members of management.
  • The employee suddenly only does the bare minimum.
  • Loss of interest in training and development
  • Reduced productivity by the employee. 

While some of these indicators might just signal an employee is going through a difficult time, they often signal that they have become disengaged and are seeking employment elsewhere.  Either way, the issue should be addressed.  

How to address a disengaged employee.
Disengagement (burnout, boredom, lateness, lackluster performance, workplace conflict) affects as many as 9 in 10 employees.  Gallup research shows that the cost of lost productivity due to absence, illness and stress-related work problems exceeds $350 billion per year nationwide.  The following tips can help to re-engage an employee who otherwise may be on their way out:

  • Talk less.  Sound strange?  A large part of communication is listening.  Often times disengaged employees don’t feel like their voice is being heard.  Encourage feedback in meetings and ask more questions.  
  • Set goals together.  Employees thrive on working towards something and without goals can easily lose their focus.
  • Say thank you.  Feeling unappreciated is sure to lead to disengagement.  A simple thank you can show an employee that what they are doing is making a difference to the business.
  • Create a culture of opportunity.  Boredom is a major culprit of employee burn out.  Allow employees the chance to work on new projects that they might not normally be involved in.  Ask them if there is an area of the business that interests them that might be slightly outside of their normal scope of work.
  • Consider flexible working hours.   If the nature of the position allows it, give people the opportunity to work from home and customize their working hours.  The regularity of the work week can be exhausting for some and lead to poor levels of engagement.  
  • Set clear expectations.  Without a set of clear expectations, employees will quickly become disengaged.  Make sure employees understand the organization’s and your definition of success.  Also ask them what they consider to be success within their position.  Together goals can be created.

When caught early enough and addressed properly, disengaged employees can be saved.  But prevention is the best medicine.  Utilize the tips above with all employees – don’t wait for them to become disengaged.

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