Employees come and go. Some of them retire, some of them get fired and some of them simply quit. Although it’s all part of the business life cycle, having a staff member leave unexpectedly can be inconvenient, to say the least. Luckily, new research has revealed 13 pre-quitting behaviours that can help predict whether someone is about to quit.
The study was conducted by researchers at Utah State University, Florida State University, and Arizona State University. Inspired by a previous study that aimed to discover if romantic partners give off cues that indicate they’re being unfaithful, they wondered whether there were identifiable signs that could predict the likelihood of someone leaving.
The researchers asked 100 managers and 100 employees about changes in the behaviour of people who quit that could have revealed they were on their way out. The survey resulted in more than 900 pre-quitting behaviours, which the researchers condensed into a list of 116 by grouping similar ones together.
After eliminating behaviours that occurred to infrequently to suggest any significance, they isolated a cluster of 13 highly correlated behaviours that best represent employees’ inclination to quit in the following 12 months. The pre-quitting behaviours are:
- Their work productivity has decreased more than usual.
- They have acted less like a team player than usual.
- They have been doing the minimum amount of work more frequently than usual.
- They have been less interested in pleasing their manager than usual.
- They have been less willing to commit to long-term timelines than usual.
- They have exhibited a negative change in attitude.
- They have exhibited less effort and work motivation than usual.
- They have exhibited less focus on job-related matters than usual.
- They have expressed dissatisfaction with their current job more frequently than usual.
- They have expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor more frequently than usual.
- They have left early from work more frequently than usual.
- They have lost enthusiasm for the mission of the organisation.
- They have shown less interest in working with customers than usual.
Looking at the list, the two key words seem to be “than usual”. The researchers aren’t handing out magic glasses that instantly enable you to spot which employees might be considering to leave. The results do, however, emphasise the importance of getting to know your staff by interacting with them on a daily basis.
Only through spending time with them will you know what their usual behaviour looks like, increasing the chances that you’ll spot changes when they occur.
Once you do suspect one of your staff members might be planning a move, the researchers advise to focus on retaining them in the short-term. They point out the usual company wide approaches to handling turnover problems can take time to design and implement, at which point it might be too late. Instead, focusing on the turnover risk of specific employees can quickly reveal what could be changed to keep them from straying.
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