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5 Signs an Employee is Going to Leave

Human Resources

Employee turnover can be a huge cost to business. Each time someone leaves you lose productivity and knowledge. Add on additional time and money spent recruiting and hiring for the position. Together, it can cost up to 150 percent of a worker's salary to replace them.

There's a potentially cheaper solution: Reaching out to employees before they leave. How can you know when someone may be about to leave? Employees tend to send signs that they are going to leave long before their two weeks' notice. Here are five you need to know.

1. 9-5 Every Time

Engaged employees are willing to work the long hours. They're passionate about what they're doing and want to do great work. You'll often find employees at the beginning of a job are willing to work late or come in early if need be.

Employees who may be ready to leave, on the other hand, are generally a different story. They focus on the bare minimum. Often, they aren't willing to take on extra work. They no longer feel the strong commitment to your business. These employees may work regular hours, but no more than necessary.

2. A Suddenly Clean Desk

In many ways, someone's desk, office, or cubicle is their home in the office. People bring in photos of family, trinkets or decorations to make the space theirs.

When you're going to move to a new house, you start to empty out the old house, cleaning and preparing to leave. The same pattern may start to happen when people are going to leave their office. Messy desks start to become more organized. Pictures might start coming down. It starts to look less like an employee's space and more like an empty desk you'll need to fill.

3. Major Life Event

Marriage, baby, death: major life events don't just affect employees' personal lives. People aren't thinking of leaving, at least not initially. Yet these big events can create new pressures. For instance, if a parent gets sick, an employee may start to need a job that allows telecommuting. That may not be a feasible option in your business.

While major life events may not seem like something that will affect your business, they can force employees to move on or require new flexibility at work.

4. Increased Activity on LinkedIn

Whenever you go on LinkedIn, this employee has started to pop up. Perhaps they've started writing on LinkedIn. Maybe they just keep adding new connections. Whatever the change, they've started to become incredibly active on LinkedIn.

One of the main reasons LinkedIn is so popular (and lucrative) is the ability to network and find jobs on the site. An employee's ramped up activity can be a strong sign they are looking for their next gig.

5. Change in Behavior

Sometimes, a simple change in behavior can be the clearest sign. At one office, the manager realized an employee was leaving because of donuts. The employee used to bring in donuts every Friday. After skipping two weeks of sweets, the office manager knew something was wrong. She pulled her employee aside to ask her what was going on. Was the employee thinking of leaving? Turned out the employee had already found another job and was going to give her notice on Monday.

When employees are looking to leave, they may begin to change their behavior. They may stop going out as often to happy hour. They may stop sharing as many stories from their personal life. These changes in behavior can be hard to notice but they may show an employee who is becoming disengaged. Soon enough, they may start to look for another job.

Whether or not an employee has already begun the process of leaving, these signs are an opportunity for management. Catching these signs becomes an opportunity to sit down with employees and discuss what's going on.

Not all employees will stay for the long haul. Noticing these signs and working to keep employees may reduce your churn rate and help you minimize your expenses related to turnover.

Looking for more ways to retain employees? Here are seven ideas to get you started.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.