Red Flags That a Top Performer is About to Quit


Carolyn Nevitte HR Director at People Insight

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

In an ideal world, you’ll never be surprised when an employee hands in his or her notice. You’ll have already picked up on the warning signs and red flags that an employee isn’t content, that they’re disengaged — or they’re ready to move on to new challenges and adventures.

Article 6 Minutes
Red Flags That a Top Performer Is about to Quit

Some companies take the prediction of voluntary turnover to the next level and employ the use of AI technology. IBM has developed an AI program that reportedly can predict, with 95% accuracy, whether employees are flight risks. This information allows managers to step in and re-engage them.

Other companies gauge sentiment on employee surveys and pulse surveys to better understand employee engagement levels. Using this approach, human resources professionals and line managers are able to delve into the survey analytics, providing a real insight into employees, their engagement and commitment. A steep decline in certain survey responses will prompt managers to sit up and pay attention to employee behavior and performance.

An obvious flag is a key indicator. At People Insight, we use: ‘I would still like to be working here in 2 years’ time’. By applying correlation analysis to this question’s responses, you get an insight into the key drivers affecting ‘intention to stay.’ This can often include interest and challenge in the specific role, or amount of career development opportunities, for example.

Well organized demographics in your survey will also allow you to dig down into particular areas of the business, teams or employee groups where ‘intention to stay’ is poor.

With talent retention being a prime cause for concern for many companies — large and small alike — we'll explore certain red flags and worrying warning signs that could indicate one of your top performers is about to jump ship.

1. They don’t have a sense of purpose

People Insight have recently conducted a statistical analysis, looking at over 4,000 employee survey responses and using more than 130,000 data points. The analysis of this research showed overwhelmingly that employees are most likely to leave a company if they lack a sense of purpose.

Employees don't just want to work their 9-5 job and check out at the end of the day. They want a sense of meaning. Meaning gives your employees added incentive. It connects the employee to your organization and it shows them that their contribution really matters. Take some time to consider — do your employees feel a sense of purpose? Do they know their position in the organization and do they understand how what they do matters to your business? If your employees lack a sense of purpose, they might not be around for much longer.

2. They’re complaining about a lack of challenge

Employees don’t want an easy ride. They’re looking for interesting work and want a challenge, to develop and advance. If they get the impression you can't offer them any growth opportunities, or scope to diversify their workload, they’ll look for a challenge elsewhere.

Pay attention to your employees during your 1:1s — are they asking for more training, more work, more opportunities? Do they seem unenthusiastic about their current work? Has it been a long time since you gave them the chance to take on a new challenge? If so, these are clear warning signs your employee is bored and won’t likely stick around for much longer.

3. They’re withdrawing socially at work

The employee experience is paramount these days. Modern employees don’t just want to come to work, get their job done and leave. They want to engage with their work, but also with their peer group. They want a sense of connection and belonging. Generally, you’ll find the happier and more engaged employees are the ones who make the most social connections at work. Conversely, if an employee begins to withdraw from their colleagues, contributing less in face to face or online discussions, or declining social activities, this could be a sign they’re preparing to sever ties completely.

4. They’re visibly stressed out

In May 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially included employee burn-out in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, describing it as an “occupational phenomenon”.  Stress levels within your organization are something you need to take seriously. Don’t cultivate a company culture that is constantly pushing employees beyond their limits, with no regard for their mental or physical health. And don’t mistake exhaustion for engagement.

Employees might appear eager and dedicated when they’re the first in the door and the last to leave, but their exhaustion tells another story. They’re wearing themselves out and this is unsustainable. You can only run on empty for so long and eventually employees like this end up crashing. Sometimes, they decide to leave before they do so. If you notice an employee is taking his or her perfectionism too far — or they’re often stressed out  — step in before they decide to hand in their notice.

5. You notice a rise in absenteeism

When an employee becomes disengaged and dissatisfied with their work, they have very little reason to stay at your company. They aren’t invested and they aren’t excited. As such, their motivation to impress, perform or contribute dwindles. Keep an eye on absenteeism.

Watch out for employees who take any opportunity to not come to work, to leave early or come in late. This is a clear sign of apathy and an early warning sign they’ll soon be jumping ship.

6. They come up with ways of getting out of assignments

We’ve already mentioned that disengaged employees are apathetic about their work. Forbes suggests one warning sign that an employee is about to leave is when they start coming up with excuses not to take on new assignments. They might suggest someone else take on the work or offer up a scheduling conflict. This could indicate they’ll be heading off soon and they don’t want to begin any new projects or leave you in the lurch with regards to deadlines.

7. They’re more active on LinkedIn

If your employee intends to leave, they’ll need another position lined up. If you’ve noticed other red flags, it’s worth checking their LinkedIn profile to see whether they’ve become more active. Have they recently updated their information, their work history, even their profile picture? Are they making new connections or joining new groups? In isolation, this isn’t much of a concern, but when combined with other signs, you might want to step in and try to re-engage them before they leave.

8. They’ve stopped sharing their insights and feedback

If an employee is about to leave, they aren’t going to be as invested as they once were. Where before they would have piped up with an opinion or suggestion on how to improve a certain workplace process or procedure, you might notice them staying silent. They don’t seem keen on helping to improve the company culture or environment because they know they won’t be around to benefit from it. If you notice this, you might want to pull your employee into a private meeting and let them know you miss their insights and that they’re a real asset to your company. This could be the appreciation and recognition they need to keep them on board.

Carolyn Nevitte

Carolyn Nevitte is HR Director at People Insight, a company that helps organizations measure and improve the employee experience through employee surveys, 360-degree feedback and expert consulting.


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04/09/2019 Maria Camacho
Need to share with my Leadership group