Houston expert: Recognizing the warning signs of employee turnover
Although managing employee turnover is one critical element of operating a successful business, the "Great Resignation" has created mayhem in the workplace, as employers struggle with a staggering number of employee resignations and the difficulties associated with filling open positions.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a total of 15.5 million workers quit their jobs during a four-month period, April to July in 2021.
One way for employers to be proactive and help combat employee turnover is to be aware of the warning signs. If employers can address situations before it is too late, they have a greater chance of retaining top talent, along with the institutional knowledge employees possess.
Some of the red flags indicative of possible employee turnover are discussed below.
Exhibiting low engagement levels
Employees' level of engagement can indicate whether they are connected to the company and its mission or might be planning to leave the organization. When employees stop committing to long-term projects, fail to contribute during team meetings or seem disinterested in career advancement opportunities, they are displaying low engagement levels and could signal an impending resignation. A lack of enthusiasm, doing just enough to get by and appearing to be checked out can mean their loyalties lie elsewhere and they are just counting the days until their exit.
Elevating professional brand
When employees become more active on social media, especially LinkedIn, they might be elevating their professional brand in order to secure new career opportunities. Although updating their profile, making new connections and posting thought-leadership articles might be part of a push to boost their presence on social media platforms, it could easily be an indicator they are trying to grab the attention of recruiters and industry competitors. In addition, if employees suddenly start volunteering to attend industry conferences/conventions, they might be trying to identify new employers in the field and establish those relationships for the future.
A decrease in productivity from top performers is a telltale sign that the end is near. When employees who were typically counted upon to produce at high levels suddenly have a decline in output and quality, such as failing to meet goals, missing deadlines and making more mistakes, this can mean they are no longer invested in the company. This productivity risk can have a negative impact on the company and its external relationships.
Requesting more time off
If employees start requesting more time off or call in sick frequently, they may be using the time to interview for other positions outside of the company. In addition, coming in late, leaving early and dressing better can also be signs of external meetings with potential employers. When employees stray from their normal routines and seem to spend less time concerned about how they are viewed by their existing employer, their eyes are on a bigger prize.
Displaying negative behaviors
There is nothing more damaging to a company than employees who display negative behavior. This not only has an impact on co-workers and overall employee morale, but it can also affect the company's reputation with clients and vendors. When emails and phone calls are not returned, employees fail to participate during meetings, dissatisfaction about their job is expressed and there is a general lack of respect for management and supervisors, the odds of them leaving the company are great. Unfortunately, when situations reach this degree, they may be unsalvageable and in the company's best interest to move forward without these employees.
Trusting a bad feeling
Many successful business leaders know the standard behaviors, habits and career goals of their top performers, so they should be in tune with what is going on in their professional lives. However, there are times when something just doesn't feel right – a gut feeling – when employees don't appear to be themselves. They may seem disorganized, withdrawn or disappointed for some reason, which leaders should quickly investigate. Getting to the heart of the matter and taking action can reverse the course and lead to more engaged and loyal employees.
Of course, it is always best to retain employees both from a cost and skills perspective because turnover is expensive with regard to attracting, hiring, onboarding, training and replacing the knowledge drain with new employees. When valued employees exhibit the warning signs, it behooves employers to take some extra steps to address the situation and convince workers to remain with the company.
For example, have one-on-one conversations to determine the reasons why employees want to leave and request input from them about ways to resolve the situation before it is too late. However, in an effort to help avoid employee turnover in the future, open and honest communications should occur on a frequent basis to establish strong relationships between employers and employees, which results in a more connected and engaged workforce.
While the business landscape has shifted from an employer- to employee-driven workforce that is dictated by employee needs, leaders should be extremely cognizant of the warning signs of employee turnover, keeping them on their radar during daily interactions with employees. Sometimes, all it takes is employee recognition and thoughtful conversations that demonstrate employers care and have compassion toward employees, which can turn potential resignations into long-term dedication to a company and its mission.
Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.