Are you worried that one or more of your top employees is getting ready to jump ship? In our knowledge-based economy, the loss of a key contributor can deliver a blow to the bottom line. In addition to the organizational turmoil that employee departures wreak, you could be faced with expenses that run between 1.5 and 2.0 times the annual salary of the position in order to bring someone new on board and get things running smoothly again. John Rampton recently summarized the kinds of changed behaviors that managers should watch for, and the steps they should take to maintain employee commitment to the organization.

Last year, the Journal of Management published new research from Timothy Gardner, Utah State University, and his colleagues, focusing on the kinds of behaviors exhibited by employees who are considering leaving. In the If You’ve Got Leavin’ on Your Mind study, researchers say some of the most telltale signs are:

  • Decreased work productivity
  • Less willing to commit to long-term timelines
  • Increased negative attitude
  • Expressing more dissatisfaction with job or supervisor
  • Not acting like a team player
  • Less enthusiasm for the organization’s mission

Employees who are actively looking for new positions may take more vacation or sick time than usual. A change in an employee’s LinkedIn profile is another clue that all is not well. Updates to the profile can signal that an employee is starting to look around for other opportunities.

As a manager, you should pay attention to major events which may impact an employee’s commitment to the organization. A common trigger for dissatisfaction is the failure to obtain a promotion. An employee who doesn’t get the internal job she wanted may need extra coaching sessions. Explain why she didn’t get the job, ask about her career aspirations and give her the tools to prepare for future advancement. If you don’t take these steps, you risk seeing her productivity drop and potentially losing her.

Employees who go through major life events may also start to question their current employment situation. For example, a divorce may lead an employee to consider starting out fresh in a new job situation. The birth of a child can cause financial and emotional disruption. Be proactive and talk with employees in these situations about how they are doing. Offer your support and encouragement.

One of your key goals as a manager should be the development of a workplace culture where employees feel appreciated and valued. Talking with team members about goals, responsibilities and the future can keep them invested in the organization. Don’t wait until you see signs of dissatisfaction. Take action now to improve your culture.