Employers who want to know which employees could be on their way out the door should look for certain signals, new research suggests.
Even if would-be quitters think they are keeping their plans secret, those who are thinking about jumping ship and leaving their jobs often give off cues that others can pick up on, reveals a study by Tim Gardner, a Utah State University associate professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.
"You might think that someone who starts showing up to work late, failing to return phone calls and emails, and taking lots of sick days might be about to leave, but those weren't unique behaviors that applied only to the quitters," Gardner said. [8 Amazing Job Benefits That Keep Employees Happy]
Before they left, most employees in the study had at least one trait in common: they began to "disengage" in the workplace, Gardner said. Here are some examples of subtle but consistent behavioral changes people often make in the one to two months before they leave their jobs:
- Offering fewer constructive contributions in meetings
- Being reluctant to commit to long-term projects
- Acting more reserved and quiet
- Being less interested in advancing in the organization
- Showing less interest in pleasing the boss than before
- Avoiding social interactions with the boss and other members of management
- Suggesting fewer new ideas or innovative approaches
- Doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer going beyond the call of duty
- Participating less in training and development programs
- Demonstrating a drop in work productivity
Gardner said if employees demonstrate at least six of these behaviors, his statistical formula could predict with 80 percent accuracy that they were about to leave the organization.
"It appears that a person's attitude can create behaviors that are hard to disguise," Gardner said. "As the grass starts to look greener on the other side of the fence to you, chances are that others will soon notice that you've lost your focus."
In today's competitive business environment, where companies invest a lot in their top performers, Gardner said this information might help managers find ways to keep people on board. He added, however, that the "dark side" of his research was that some employers may opt to let people go if they think these individuals are going to leave anyway.
The research went beyond shipping out a simple survey asking employers for their best guesses on what signs might indicate an employee is unhappy. Instead, Gardner and his team used a complex statistical methodology as they conducted three different studies, using seven different samples. Those seven sets included undergraduate students, graduate students, managers and other business leaders from around the world.
Originally published on Business News Daily.