This Houston expert shares what could be some red flags indicative of possible employee turnover. Photo via Getty Images

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.

Decreasing productivity

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.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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2 COVID-19-focused research projects happening in Houston

research roundup

While it might seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down for the time being, there's plenty of innovative research ongoing to create solutions for affordable vaccines and tech-enabled protection against the spread of the virus.

Some of that research is happening right here in Houston. Here are two innovative projects in the works at local institutions.

UH researcher designs app to monitor best times to shop

A UH professor is putting safe shopping at your fingertips. Photo via UH.edu

When is the best time to run an errand in the pandemic era we currently reside? There might be an app for that. Albert Cheng, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is working on a real-time COVID-19 infection risk assessment and mitigation system. He presented his plans at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference HPC for Urgent Decision Making and will publish the work in IEEE Xplore.

Cheng's work analyzes up-to-date data from multiple open sources to see when is the best time to avoid crowds and accomplish activities outside the home.

"Preliminary work has been performed to determine the usability of a number of COVID-19 data websites and other websites such as grocery stores and restaurants' popular times and traffic," Cheng says in a UH release. "Other data, such as vaccination rates and cultural factors (for example, the percentage of people willing to wear facial coverings or masks in an area), are also used to determine the best grocery store to shop in within a time frame."

To use the app, a user would input their intended destinations and the farthest distance willing to go, as well as the time frame of the trip. The risk assessment and mitigation system, or RT-CIRAM, then "provides as output the target location and the time interval to reach there that would reduce the chance of infections," said Cheng.

There's a lot to it, says Cheng, and the process is highly reliant on technology.

"We are leveraging urgent high-performance cloud computing, coupled with time-critical scheduling and routing techniques, along with our expertise in real-time embedded systems and cyber-physical systems, machine learning, medical devices, real-time knowledge/rule-based decision systems, formal verification, functional reactive systems, virtualization and intrusion detection," says Cheng.

2 Houston hospitals team up with immunotherapy company for new vaccine for Africa

The new vaccine will hopefully help mitigate spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo via bcm.edu

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have teamed up with ImmunityBio Inc. — a clinical-stage immunotherapy company — under a licensing agreement to develop a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

BCM has licensed out a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development to ImmunityBio. According to the release, the company engaged in license negotiations with the BCM Ventures team, about the vaccine that could address the current pandemic needs in South Africa.

"We hope that our COVID-19 vaccine for global health might become an important step towards advancing vaccine development capacity in South Africa, and ultimately for all of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

ImmunityBio, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, is working on innovative immunotherapies that address serious unmet needs in infectious diseases, according to a news release from BCM.

"There is a great need for second-generation vaccines, which are accessible, durable and offer broad protection against the emerging variants," says Soon-Shiong. "ImmunityBio has executed on a heterologous ("mix-and-match") strategy to develop a universal COVID-19 vaccine. To accomplish this, we have embarked upon large-scale good manufacturing practices and development of DNA (adenovirus), RNA (self-amplifying mRNA) and subunit protein (yeast) vaccine platforms. This comprehensive approach will leverage our expertise in these platforms for both infectious disease and cancer therapies."

Elon Musk taps into Texas workforce for out-of-this-world bartender gig

DRINKING ON THE JOB

Can you mix a mean margarita? Are you capable of slinging a superb Aperol spritz? If so, Elon Musk wants you to become a "spaceport mixologist."

Musk's SpaceX, which builds and launches rockets, is hiring a "passionate, experienced" mixologist for its "spaceport" near Brownsville. The ideal candidate possesses at least two years of "superior" mixology experience at resorts, bars, and full-service restaurants, including the ability to pair drinks with themed menus.

Among other duties, the mixologist will prepare drinks, including handcrafted cocktails, and will ensure "consistency and compliance with the restaurant's recipes, portioning, and waste control guidelines."

The new mixologist will concoct alcoholic beverages for SpaceX's launch facility in Boca Chica, a Texas Gulf Coast community about 20 miles east of Brownsville. The job posting indicates the mixologist will work on the culinary team serving the SpaceX workforce.

According to Austin-based job website Indeed, the average mixologist in the U.S. earns $13.53 an hour. The SpaceX job posting doesn't list a salary, but you've got to imagine Musk — by far the richest person in Texas — would fork over more than $13.53 an hour for a spaceport mixologist.

By the way, in case you're not a master mixologist, SpaceX also is looking for a sous chef in Boca Chica. The sous chef will be tasked with cooking up menus that emphasize seasonal items and "creative" options. The chef's duties will include sourcing high-quality ingredients "with a focus on local, sustainable, and organic items."

Musk, who spends much of his time in Austin, is developing what the Bloomberg news service describes as an "empire" in Texas. Aside from the SpaceX facility, Musk-led Tesla is building a vehicle manufacturing plant just east of Austin and is moving its headquarters here. If that weren't enough, the Musk-founded Boring Co., which specializes in developing underground tunnels, lists 20 job openings in Austin on its website. In addition, SpaceX tests rocket engines at a site in McGregor, about 17 miles southwest of Waco.

"Texas has had its share of characters over the years, and many have been larger-than-life, wealthy risk-takers who came from elsewhere," Waco economist Ray Perryman tells Bloomberg. "There's still a wildcatting mentality here, and there's still a mystique about Texas that Elon Musk fits well."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.