How Honolulu CEOs Know When Top Talent Is About to Quit

It’s no secret that unemployment is at rock bottom these days. Here in Honolulu it’s below 2% which basically means that everyone that can work has a job — and now that even includes many people who should not be in the work force in the first place.

As competition for top talent increases, smart leaders are staying ahead of the game by doing what they can to keep key employees in place.

How do you know when someone is about to quit?

Over the last few weeks I’ve asked a couple of the CEOs in my CEO peer group here in Honolulu how they can tell when an employee (any employee) is about to quit. Other than “finding their resume on the printer” here are some of the telltale signs an employee is about to hit the bricks:

  • Lagging individual enthusiasm. The data never lies. When metrics indicate a dip in performance it can indicate something is awry. For example, this article over on Fast Company’s site describes a case study where increased time spent on calls and fewer calls ending in resolution were good predictors that an employee was about to bounce. Basically it meant they were just going through the motions at the call center. Which metrics can you look at in your own organization to identify someone who is about to leave?
  • A statistical dip in office morale. The CEOs in my CEO peer group use tools like TINYPulse to keep an eye out for changes in office morale and maintain a thriving culture. Also recommended was the Q12 Employee Engagement Survey by the guys over at Gallup. (Oddly, it’s hard to find the 12 questions on Gallup’s site but you can see them here.)
  • The LinkedIn Trick. Often when someone is thinking to move they start updating their skill set on LinkedIn. Changes in an employee’s LinkedIn profile might mean the individual is thinking about a change. One CEO in my CEO peer group here in Honolulu said he monitors the LinkedIn profiles of his key employees and acts quickly if key employees start making changes to their LinkedIn profiles.
  • Know who’s hiring. One of my CEOs says he knows what positions his competitors are trying to fill. If you know what the other guys are looking for, you can guess which of your staff might be in jeopardy. Can you take steps to ensure these employees are satisfied with you?

But what do you do when you get an inkling that someone is about to leave? I’m glad you asked. Here are a couple of suggestions my CEOs shared with me:

  • Conduct a stay interview. Hunter Lott is a phenomenal presenter I’ve brought in to speak to my CEO peer groups on a couple of occasions. He recommends that you stop doing Exit Interviews. (Why is it you think all the smart people are leaving?)Hunter says instead you should spend time doing a “Stay Interview” with your top talent. Ask the same questions you’d ask in your Exit Interview only in reverse. “What’s your number one reason for NOT leaving?” After all, isn’t it the top talent that isn’t leaving where you should be turning your attention?
  • Make appreciation part of your DNA. I was very impressed when Dan Dinell over at Hawaii Coffee Company mentioned his intentional efforts to demonstrate appreciation for his staff. Dan sends employees handwritten notes, creates a positive write up for the employee’s personnel file or puts their picture up on his “values wall”. Employees –people!– want to feel that they are making a contribution and being valued.
  • Beef up your own transparency. Be honest about your wins and losses. Communicate successes and failures. Talk about your future goals. Top talent wants to buy into a vision. They want to feel like they matter to the organization. You won’t keep A players if you keep them in the dark.
  • Commit to developing your best employees. Adopt a formal coaching process such as Catalytic Coaching to create a culture of employee development at your organization. Send your key executives to a peer group like the one I run here in Honolulu. (Shameless self promotion!) Or have a conversation with your Millennial employee about your development plan for her. People are more likely to stay if they feel they’re growing.
  • Act quickly. The CEOs in my peer group are agreed: once you spot a trend, don’t wait to act. If there’s dissatisfaction, you need to find the cause quickly.

Hope this helps.



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