Attrition has always been expensive for companies, but in many industries the cost of losing good workers is rising, owing to tight labor markets and the increasingly collaborative nature of jobs. Thus companies are intensifying their efforts to predict which workers are at high risk of leaving so that managers can try to stop them.
Some of this analytical work is generating fresh insights about what impels employees to quit. In general, people leave their jobs because they don’t like their boss, don’t see opportunities for promotion or growth, or are offered a better gig (and often higher pay); these reasons have held steady for years.
New research conducted by CEB, a Washington-based best-practice insight and technology company, looks not just at why workers quit but also at when.
Some of the discoveries are unsurprising:
- Work anniversaries (whether of joining the company or of moving into one’s current role) are natural times for reflection, and job-hunting activity jumps by 6% and 9%, respectively, at those points.
- Birthdays—particularly midlife milestones such as turning 40 or 50—can prompt employees to assess their careers and take action if they’re unhappy with the results. (Job hunting jumps 12% just before birthdays.)
- Large social gatherings of peers, such as class reunions, can also be catalysts—they’re natural occasions for people to measure their progress relative to others’. (Job hunting jumps 16% after reunions.)
“The big realization is that it’s not just what happens at work—it’s what happens in someone’s personal life that determines when he or she decides to look for a new job,” says Brian Kropp, who heads CEB’s HR practice.
Technology also provides clues about which star employees might be eyeing the exit. Companies can tell whether employees using work computers or phones are spending time on (or even just opening unsolicited e-mails from) career websites, and research shows that more firms are paying attention to these things.
Some firms, such as Credit Suisse, take this tack with employees identified as being at risk of leaving: Internal recruiters cold-call the employees to alert them to openings inside the company. In 2014 the program reduced attrition by 1% and moved 300 employees, many of whom might otherwise have left, into new positions. Credit Suisse estimates that it saved $75 million to $100 million in rehiring and training costs.
Researchers agree that preemptive intervention is a better way to deal with employees’ wandering eyes than waiting for someone to get an offer and then making a counteroffer. CEB’s data shows that 50% of employees who accept a counteroffer leave within 12 months.
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Source: Harvard Business Review