Almost nothing is as frustrating — or costly — for companies as having a recently hired staff member leave despite a lengthy recruiting and screening process. Maybe the salary wasn't competitive enough or it wasn't a good cultural fit. Whatever the exact cause, one thing is always true when an employee quits: You've got to scramble to find a replacement, and that's the last thing you have time for. But what if there was a way to know ahead of time that a key member of your team was looking for an exit, allowing you to proactively intervene?
As it turns out, there is. It sounds like science fiction, but it's very, very real.
how people analytics can predict your next vacancy
By combining the latest in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and predictive analytics, new technologies can help predict when employees are likely considering opportunities elsewhere. Within the industry, these data points are collectively called "people analytics." The way this works, ultimately, is not so different from the way that Netflix recommends new shows for you to binge on. One people analytics platform called Workday examines factors like employee activity, recent promotions, regional factors and changes within a given industry to deliver insights on who's likely to quit next.
However, identifying the right data points to feed into technologies like Workday will be a stumbling block for many companies. After all, how do you know which factors to include, which to leave out — or how much weight to give each individual data point? After all, there's not one-size-fits-all model. The prediction engine that's perfect for one company is unlikely to be right for the next, particularly given the fact that so many factors — including the thousands of hard-to-quantify components that constitute company culture — go into determining retention. Indeed, within a single organization, the extent to which each data point actually influences turnover is liable to change over time, so the predictive model will need to be dynamically updated and the weight given to each data point continually rejiggered.
As Bloomberg points out, these solutions work best at tech companies like Google and Microsoft that already collect substantial amounts of employee data. But today's technologies develop and evolve at breakneck speeds, so it's only a matter of time before these apps can be successful within other industries. In the meantime, there's a simpler approach to people analytics, or the inputs that you can use to predict employee behaviors — and it doesn't necessarily require much tech wizardry.
Read on for three easy ways to identify at-risk employees and intervene before it's too late.
1. check in with employees — all the time
Constantly ask questions: How was your morning? How did you feel after Sam said that in the meeting? What are you excited about? What are you working on right now? Besides getting a valuable feel for the pulse of the business, you'll be surprised by how easy it is to hear sour notes and identify those who may be feeling frustrated or undervalued. Studies show that 56 percent of employees who are not engaged, and 73 percent who are actively disengaged, are likely hunting for jobs elsewhere. So you need to be constantly asking questions, and perhaps even regularly polling employees, if you want to stay informed and prevent churn.
2. be extra attentive to your hardest-working employees
Employees who put in the longest hours are probably your most valuable and best-compensated staff members. But those long hours can also increase the risk of turnover. In fact, at the extreme end of the spectrum, studies show that when people work insanely long hours — say 15 hours of overtime week after week — turnover is nearly 100 percent. If you notice that certain employees are frequently staying at the office late and coming in early, be sure to check in with them often.
3. keep an eye on the social profiles of your most valuable employees
Recently refurbished professional profiles are definitely a red flag — particularly when followed by a sick day. This could be a sign that an employee is actively taking interviews. Of course, you shouldn't jump to any conclusions, but talk to senior leadership about the situation and develop a game plan. You might even consider offering the employee a preemptive raise is in order. Our research shows that low compensation is the number one reason why employees leave organizations, so money may be an important lever. At least it's a lever you still have control over.
By following your intuition, and applying these three simple tips, you should be able to stay one step ahead of employees and strategically intervene to avoid churn. Think of the mighty predictive power of the pre-cogs in the movie "Minority Report" — power which, by the end of the movie, is revealed to be located in the human brain.
Of course, some turnover will inevitably catch you by surprise. When that happens and you need to backfill fast, it often pays to work with a partner who knows how to find quality talent quickly.