In the past few years, employee retention has become an increasingly prevalent issue for companies, with several studies pointing to the different reasons your employees may be leaving.

Just last year alone, the Work Institute's 2019 Retention Report found that 41.4 million U.S. workers left their jobs in search of better opportunities, equating to a 27 percent voluntary turnover rate.

By 2023, this number is estimated to increase to 35 percent. The Work Institute conservatively estimated that the cost to lose a U.S. worker is $15,000. 

3 warning signs to watch for before they quit

What if you had the power of predicting months in advance whether your employees are committed to staying long-term or about to head for the exits? Peakon, a people analytics platform, conducted a compelling study that did just that by leveraging HR technology to detect crucial warning signs your people may be quitting, up to nine months in advance.

Drawing from nearly 50 million employee survey responses, Peakon asked two questions at the start of a nine-month period to determine levels of engagement and loyalty at work--the two key metrics that indicate whether someone is thinking of leaving. The questions:

  • "How likely is it you would recommend [Company Name] as a place to work" (to measure engagement).
  • "If you were offered the same job at another organization, how likely is it that you would stay with [Company Name]" (to measure loyalty).

Three warning signs were uncovered to help companies detect in advance for intervention and the prevention of unnecessary turnover. 

1. Sense of accomplishment

Research has shown that having a meaningfully challenging workload is something employees consider an important part of their work experience. It might be surprising that a lack of feeling challenged is one of the nine-month warning signs that an employee may quit.

This can be drawn to the desire to feel a sense of accomplishment. Overcoming challenges in one's work is an important aspect of creating a rewarding work environment.

As Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer of The Progress Principle found, when employees show consistent progress on significant projects, levels of engagement, productivity, and creativity all rise with it. 

Thus, it is important that when managers are distributing workloads, they do so in a way that considers the capabilities of the individual and leaves room for personal achievement and overall growth.

2. Growth potential

In employees' search of meaningful challenges, it likely doesn't come as a surprise that another important aspect to their experience is seeing a potential path for personal development and support.

Jobs form a large part of a person's identity in the modern world, so, for engagement levels to remain high, it is crucial that people see their role in the workplace as a valuable part of their long-term journey.

Through asking a series of questions measuring an employee's perception of personal growth potential, Peakon saw a notable decline among those who eventually left their jobs. 

3. Managerial relationship

Among the many relationships employees will develop at a company, those formed with one's manager have a significant impact on overall workplace experience, even more so than one's relationships with other peers.

More specifically, it is important that employees feel as though they have a supportive and open communication channel with their managers, to the extent that they would feel comfortable discussing topics such as compensation or rewards.

While appropriate compensation in itself is an important factor, research shows that even when employees feel they are being fairly rewarded, engagement levels will still drop if they feel there is no room for such discussions with their managers. 

With this in mind, it is important that managers practices regular one-on-one meetings, distribute anonymous surveys to employees, and conduct in-person feedback sessions as just a few of the many ways to regularly encourage the formation of these relationships and drive employee retention.