Predict Who Will Leave in 9 Months: The Power of Engagement

2 minute read

This insight is Part 1 in a two-part series on employee engagement and the power of employee surveys.

Sudden departures are disruptive. Being able to predict when an employee will leave can make the difference between a smooth transition or a sudden, potentially unsettling change of plans. What indicators do employees give us before they leave? Peakon, a people analytics company, has released a new study that reveals that it is possible to determine if an employee will leave up to nine months in advance. The study examined over 32 million survey responses in 125 countries, finding that nine months before an employee leaves, their engagement and loyalty starts to fail.

An employee’s engagement is typically measured through the Employee Net Promoter score, which is calculated based on a strategic question: “How likely is it you would recommend [company name] as a place to work?” This one question reflects the employee’s entire spectrum of experience at the company across organizational culture, work environment, and career prospects. As this engagement dips, the intent to stay with the company starts to drop as well.

What leads to sudden dips in engagement? Managers could be a deciding factor. A Gallup poll of more than one million US workers found that 75% of employees who left jobs did so because of their managers and not the job itself. In particular, poor leaders and overbearing managers reduce the morale of their teams, eventually leading to dips in employee loyalty. This is echoed in the Peakon study, as the researchers found that “[w]hile peer relationships are a crucial part of a positive and engaging work experience, when compared to management support, they don’t seem to have as much of an impact on an employee’s likelihood of quitting.”

The Peakon study also indicated some other major drivers behind the dips in engagement, including when people felt:

  1. Unchallenged and unaccomplished in their work – “it’s not the amount of work that’s the problem. At-risk employees find their workload manageable, virtually up until the day they leave.”
  2. Under-appreciated and unable to discuss rewards openly with their manager“employees need to feel their managers care about them as people, and are willing to support them emotionally, in addition to financially.”
  3. Stagnant and unable to see a path for personal development – “When we feel our role is helping us develop into our best self, it can have an incredibly powerful impact on employee engagement.”

Think one of your employees is pondering a change? While you can’t quite use employee survey information to pinpoint a specific employee, according to a Harvard Business Review study, there are 13 behavioural signs that you can look for, including decreases in work productivity, exhibiting less team spirit, having a negative attitude about work, expressing dissatisfaction with colleagues and managers, and poor timeliness.

Stay tuned for next week’s issue, where we explore three common pitfalls to conducting employee surveys.