There was an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review, Why People Quit Their Jobs, that provides great analysis on when your team members are most likely to leave. I have written repeatedly on the importance of recruiting a great team, and the logical next step of retaining the great people you have recruited, and one key to retention is understanding when your people are most likely to leave.
Why people leave
Before looking at when people leave, it is important to recap why people leave. Traditionally there are three key reasons people will leave a job they have held for several years:
- They do not like their boss
- They do not see opportunities for promotion or growth
- They get a better opportunity (and often higher compensation
When people leave
Research cited in the article shows that there are certain events that trigger people to review their situation and thus exacerbates the above reasons people leave. The strongest of these events is work anniversaries, a natural time of reflection on whether joining the company turned out the way the person expected, when job-hunting activity increases 6-9 percent. These anniversaries are not only limited to joining the company but also starting a new role. Also, a formal review is likely to trigger a job search, especially if it does not include a promotion or clear promotion path.
The research also showed there are triggers outside of the company that also prompt heightened job search. Birthdays, particularly milestone birthdays (30, 40, 50, etc.) prompts employees to reflect on their life situation and whether they should pursue a move. School anniversaries serve a similar purpose, as they prompt employees to compare themselves against their classmates. The research shows a 16 percent increase in job-hunting activity after reunions. The key is that events outside of the workplace have a strong impact on whether an employee will be looking for another position.
Other clues to leavers
In addition to the extrinsic and intrinsic factors that trigger job search, there are other ways to identify employees (or teams) more likely to leave. Computer monitoring can identify higher usage of LinkedIn or other job search websites. Tracking employee badges can detect those leaving the office frequently, presumably to interview or speak with recruiters. There are even technology firms that can predict likelihood to leave based on who people are connecting with on LinkedIn.
What you should do
As I wrote, you should always be recruiting your own team to minimize their chance of leaving. Realistically, not everyone has the time or resources to do this so at a minimum you can use the above triggers and hints to focus on those employees when they are most likely to leave. Ensure that you have clear conversations with them their career path in the company, and if they do not have one you should work to create one. Also, encourage your HR team to recruit internal candidates who are likely to be job-hunting for other positions at the company, so if they are going to move they still stay within in the company. Research shows that pre-emptive intervention is much more effective that waiting for someone to get an offer and then making a counter-offer, as 50 percent of those you retain by counter-offer will still leave within twelve months.
- Retaining employees is important as recruiting them, and understanding when they are likely to start looking for other positions allows you to pre-empt a move
- Employees generally leave because they dislike their boss, do not see opportunities for promotion or growth, or get a better opportunity
- They are most likely to start or increase their job search during work related events (work anniversary, position anniversary, performance review) or life events (major birthday, class reunion, etc.).