How to Tell When Your Top Talent May Be Leaving

Recruiting and hiring promising talent in the finance department takes a significant investment in time and energy. No one wants to go through it more often than necessary, so keeping your best and brightest is a high priority for CFOs. You can ask employees if they’re happy, but can you be sure the answers they give tell the whole story? Even the most honest and forthright person isn’t going to rush to tell you about the interest a headhunter’s been showing or how tempting a competitor’s offer might be.

Here’s how to spot someone who might be on the way out and how you can keep your top talent, according to associate professor at Utah State University Tim Gardner, who conducted a survey on voluntary turnover. By looking at the compiled data, he was able to see a few signs that departing employees had in common. These warning signs could indicate an employee who might be on his or her way out:

  • A formerly sociable person becomes more quiet or reserved. A quieter employee may be that way in an attempt to detach from friends and colleagues at work. Mentally, he or she is focusing more energy on a job search or preparations for a new position that is already secured.
  • Tuning out and no longer contributing during meetings or conference calls. This behavior can be a sign that this employee no longer has a vested interest in contributing to your company’s success because it won’t affect him or her in the future.
  • Unwillingness to commit to projects down the road. While employees who are planning their departure aren’t actively contributing to growth, they are also reluctant to take on responsibilities they don’t plan to fulfill.
  • Lessened interest in advancement. People who know they have another job lined up are unconcerned about advancement in their current position. Their job performance or compliance with office standards may seem off the mark. This sign can be hard to spot in workers who are content where they are and are not driven to achieve, but if a formerly avid employee no longer cares about performance reviews, another job may be the reason.
  • Lowest-common-denominator work. When workers do only what’s required of them and aren’t meticulous about excelling or delivering more than expected, it could be a sign of detachment from the job. They’re filling time rather than giving you their best.
  • Training and education no longer interest an employee who used to look for opportunities to learn. For personnel who are making not only a job change but a career switch, training in finance may no longer hold appeal as they turn toward their new prospects.

It’s important to note that any one or two of these behaviors might arise from other causes. Someone who has personal concerns, for example, may devote all extra energy to solving a crisis or problem outside of work and therefore has less time to allocate to exceeding expectations or socializing in the office. Think in terms of behavior patterns rather than using habits in isolation as a yardstick.

Also, Gardner’s research found that many signs employers take as possible evidence of job-hunting often aren’t, including frequent medical or legal appointments; dressing up for work; sporadic responses to emails or phone calls; frequent sick days; coming in late or leaving early; or taking additional vacation time. While some of these habits may be something to address in their own right, they don’t predict a departure.

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