Recruiting quality employees is incredibly difficult, but keeping them can be just as much of a feat. The competition from other businesses, the fact that we are all naturally in search of the next great opportunity, and the danger of unhappiness or discontent at work all contribute to employees straying away from your company and seeing another as a potential match. In fact, a Jobvite survey revealed that more than half of all employees are searching for jobs even though they are currently employed. This means that statistically speaking, approximately half of your workforce is considering other career opportunities.

From an HR perspective, that number is the stuff of nightmares! Talk about putting a wrench in your succession planning! If your company is one of the many with a workforce that is less than committed, the situation isn’t hopeless. These employees may be dipping their toes in the job search pool, but until they’ve jumped off the diving board headfirst into another company, you can influence their decision. Depending on their situation, they may desire more growth opportunities, more challenging work, a less stressful environment, stronger connections with colleagues, higher pay, a flexible schedule, or a number of other things. It may not be a walk in the park finding out what they feel is lacking or helping them get it, but chances are it’s worth the effort to keep great employees.

Before this can take place, though, you’ve got to be able to identify an employee on the brink of quitting. I don’t suggest conducting an all-out investigation to determine which employees are acting suspicious, but being aware of out-of-the-ordinary behaviors and being ready to take action in a positive way can be extremely valuable. To take more of a proactive approach, watch for these changes.

Mood Fluctuations

If an employee seems to suddenly be down, reserved, uninterested, depressed, or angry, he could be at the point where it is difficult to hide his negative feelings about his job. It’s important to remember that employees have personal lives that can also affect their mood, but if it becomes a pattern or tends to be displayed more when they are faced with a challenge or opportunity at work, they may genuinely be unhappy with their current job.

Changes in Productivity

If your star player is suddenly struggling to complete the minimum requirements of her job, isn’t producing the same quality of work, or is frequently missing deadlines, she may have checked out mentally. It could be that she’s not afraid of the consequences because she’s already halfway out the door, or it may just be that she’s burned out and lacks the motivation her tasks require.

Time Off Work

One of the most obvious signs that an employee is planning his exit is if he is using an excessive—or even just unusual for him—amount of sick leave or vacation time. It could be that he’s taking the time off to interview with other companies, which may also be accompanied with dressing nicer, taking phone calls in areas where others can’t hear, and taking specific amounts of time—just about the time it would take to attend an interview and return to work. On the other hand, unsatisfied employees may be taking time off for no apparent reason other than the fact that they have time built up that they are trying to use before they quit, or they may simply not be concerned about missing work because they know they won’t be there much longer.

Updates to LinkedIn Profiles

This can be a tricky area to identify for a couple of reasons. First, people update their online profiles frequently, regardless of their job status. And secondly, I do not recommend that HR professionals or supervisors connect with employees via a networking site just to keep tabs on them. However, if you are already connected and notice that an employee has updated her skills, suddenly has recommendations, and is connecting with recruiters or employees of your competitor, she may be gearing up her online profile to attract other potential employers.

What have you seen from employees that you can add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

6 Comments

  • Avatar gary says:

    personal items begin disappearing from their office/workspace

  • Avatar Tom Bates says:

    Instead of being on the lookout for employees who are likely to quit, managers should concentrate on the ways of improving employee experience within their organization. As we all know, remuneration isn’t always enough – the working environment has to be right.

  • Avatar Lucy Spencer says:

    So many organizations today are just revolving doors. I think that their main problem is the lack of motivation for employees and therefore the lack of engagement. Employers have to finally understand that people don’t uproot their careers just for the sake of few dollars – at least in most cases it’s not about money only.

  • Avatar Amanda Darring says:

    Losing employees, especially your top talents, is always painful, but I don’t think there can be a stop to it, because everyone reasonable enough wants to develop and grow. If you don’t grow, you stagnate. The question is should we fight employees ambition for development or should we be proud of having worked with them?

  • Avatar I'm the person not the number says:

    Most organizations are designed the way to make people quit.
    Bad shifts by management purposely when worker ends at 11at night and getting called 7am-8am for a shift.So sick -no respect,no rest.The seniority is also bad,when new worker sheeps are getting overload with workload.Not allowing an employee to work at specific location because they have transport issues.Profits -companies scream more profits, and lie outright when there are profits and cut workforce.

    Don’t expect a great day,create one!

  • Avatar worker says:

    The main reason is Work Pressure and Job Control.

    “How often do you feel overwhelmed by how much you had to do at work?”
    “How often do you have to work on too many tasks at the same time?”
    “How often do the demands of your job exceed the time you have to do the work?”
    If you answer very often then quitting happens. The main reason for quitting is how workers are treated by management.

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