10 Worrying Signs of Employee Turnover That You’re Not Aware Of

A question asked from a student in the management class.  

Supervisor: The current employees are very irresponsible and leave within a few months of their employment. I truly value the star employees in my company, but they have all resigned one by one. There is no sign before leaving, which is confusing! How do I retain my top talent and decrease employee turnover rates?  

Me: How long have your employees worked with you?  

Supervisor: About half a year! I didn't hear any dissatisfaction or warning sign from my employees at ordinary times, and suddenly they quit without a word. My HR came to ask me why my turnover rate has increased rapidly over the last few months. 

Me: Is there no sign at all? 

Supervisor: At least I can’t feel it. I am not a fortune-teller; nor do I know how to read their minds. I do not know who is more loyal to me. I usually reward and motivate my employees, but why do they still want to quit? What should I do to retain my employees? Should I learn how to read tarot cards? 

We have no means to defy the accuracy of fortune-telling or tarot readings. However, we would recommend bosses and business owners to be more practical in knowing the reasons behind your high turnover rate. Analyse the problems from a practical perspective. Self-reflect on what has been done wrong, and take actions to prevent your top talent from leaving your company. If the above solutions do not work, we would recommend you seek external help to motivate and retain your talent. 


From a practical point of view, what are some of the factors that affect employee retention in different periods of time?  

There is this saying that has been around for a long time, we called it the “Employee Life Cycle Theory”:  

  • If an employee resigns within three months, it is usually related to the job itself. 
  • If an employee resigns within six months - a year, it is usually related to the relationship of the immediate supervisor. 
  • If an employee resigns after a year and a half - two years, it is usually associated with the organisational culture. 
  • If an employee resigns three to five years, it is related to his or her personal career development.
  • If an employee resigns after five years, it is usually related to employee burnout.  

In the aforementioned cases, those resigned employees had quit their job within a year. Combined with the supervisor’s insensitivity and unawareness of the employee’s status, the resignation may have a lot to do with the management or leadership style of the boss or direct supervisor. 

Employee Expectations Are Changing. Employers Need to Pay Attention. 

So, from a management point of view, how do we pay attention to the possible changes in employees’ minds? Are there any signs?  

The Change of Heart Between a Couple

We are going to explain this scenario by analogy with the change of heart between a couple.  

Imagine that you have been together with your partner for 5 years. Suddenly, your other half started paying less attention to your relationship and his or her heart is no longer there. In the same way, a shift of focus is also one of the signs of an employee’s change of heart. 

The 10 Worrying Signs of Employee Turnover

We have put together the 10 worrying signs of employee turnover: 

  1. Is insensitive towards his or her own performance appraisal and review.  
  2. Is responding passively to your request or instruction. 
  3. Most motivated employees suddenly contribute less during meetings and projects.
  4. Is absent a lot. 
  5. Productivity has dropped. 
  6. Is avoiding social interactions. 
  7. Is making exact arrivals and departures. 
  8. Your most outgoing and motivated employee is acting more reserved or quiet. 
  9. Is no longer committing to long-term projects. 
  10. You’ve got a bad feeling. 

If you observe that your employees have started showing one of the six behavioural aspects, then as a manager or boss, you should take action. You need to sit down with your employees, have in-depth one-on-one conversations. Avoid preaching, and have a real conversation to understand your employees.  

We suggest you ask your employees questions such as: 

  • How have you been lately? 
  • Are you making any progress at work? 
  • Have you faced any challenges at work? 

The purpose of having these conversations and asking these questions is to let your employees know that you still care about them, value them, and assist them when needed.  

We have communicated these behavioural changes with many different bosses and leaders. Here are the two types of leaders that I observed: 

  1. The first type of leaders are those who practice Reflective Management and Leadership. The concept of being a “reflective leader” is one of the most important skills to develop future leaders. 
  2. The second type of leaders are those who rarely care about their employees. They know these behavioural indicators, but they haven’t paid attention to their employees from these perspectives before. 

The second type of leaders are more dangerous in terms of the lack of attention and caring towards their people. Although the setting might be work, it does not mean that the conversations with your people should be just about work. It is very powerful and when you are able to ask them questions that are important to them. 

Management is like a game of interpersonal skills. It takes time and practice in order to play the game of leadership well. 

Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback, the authors behind the book “Being the Boss”, once said that “Management is a game of interpersonal interactions.” This also means that leaders and managers should not ignore your People Problems.

The “human factor” is an unavoidable part of the game. In order to play the game well, you will need to have patience and practice to find the best people strategies. Once you get the hang of it and find your best people strategies, you will be able to retain top talent and find people who will grow with your company. 

What’s Next?

If you have the right talent in your team, then you would have already won half the battle in your entrepreneurial journey. What’s next is to then provide them with additional resources so that they can become more productive for you. If for whatever reason that what you thought was a good hire turned out to be a bad hire, restart your recruitment process and find your next best candidate from the applicant pool.  

Many bosses tend to hold on to these bad hires by extending their probation, thinking that perhaps with time they will improve. Unfortunately, 90% of the time, these drastic improvements do not happen, and they are asked to leave either way.   

With each restart of the recruitment process, ask yourself and your hiring team what could have been done better. Over time, as your recruitment process and strategies get refined, you will be able to increase your chances of hiring the right talents frequently.

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