Can You Predict Whether Your Top Employees Are About to Leave?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Wouldn’t it be nice to know in advance that one of your employees is considering leaving? The labor market is stronger than ever for workers who want to boost their pay or score their dream job. Two researchers, Brooks Holtom of Georgetown University and David Allen of Texas Christian University, say there are a couple of ways to predict when an employee is about to leave. Having this information could help you increase retention if you take the right steps.

Who Will Leave?

Holtom and Allen developed a predictive model that takes both organizational and employee factors into account. With that information packaged into a big-​data platform, managers can determine who is likely to be gone in three months. 

One cause of employee departures is organizational developments like a merger, a lawsuit, or the departure of a senior executive. Some employees might decide they don’t want to stick around while the company goes through a big reorganization following a merger. Other employees might follow a senior executive to a new opportunity.

Holtom and Allen also looked at publicly available information about employees: Think social media sites. Their predictive algorithm weighs details like upcoming job anniversaries, skill sets, and frequency of past job changes to determine who might be looking for a position outside the company.

What Managers Can Do

You may already be surveying employees about their job and organizational satisfaction. Holtom and Allen contend that their style of data modeling might be more revealing than employee satisfaction surveys conducted by employers. That’s because employees don’t always tell the truth on surveys.

In reality, managers might be making a mistake by relying too much on surveys and big data models. Part of their job is to work one-​on-​one with team members. On a regular basis, they should talk with each employee about job satisfaction, goals and skill development. Managers and their team members can then track progress. This kind of process reinforces that employees are improving and making a difference in the organization. And when those big company-​wide changes occur, leaders must take the opportunity to outline their vision for the future and encourage employees to participate in changes going forward. 

Big data might give you insights, but there’s no substitute for spending time with employees, sharing your knowledge and your commitment to their future.