How to predict when an employee will quit

If you knew there was a formula that could predict up to 80% accuracy that one of your top employees was about to quit, would you pay attention? According to a Utah State University study, you should. The research found that when an employee was about to jump ship, at least six of ten recurring “key behaviors” had been demonstrated. The results may surprise employers who think they can identify an employee about to move on to greener pastures.

Tim Gardner, an associate professor at Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, conducted research on voluntary turnover using a complex statistical method in three different studies and reported his findings. “You might think that someone who starts showing up to work late, failing to return phone calls and e-mails, and taking lots of sick days might be about to leave, but those weren’t unique behaviors that applied only to the quitters.” The behaviors that did make the list include:

  1. They offered fewer constructive contributions in meetings.
  2. They were more reluctant to commit to long-term projects.
  3. They became more reserved and quiet.
  4. They became less interested in advancing in the organization.
  5. They were less interested in pleasing their boss than before.
  6. They avoided social interactions with their boss and other members of management.
  7. They suggested fewer new ideas or innovative approaches.
  8. They began doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer went beyond the call of duty.
  9. They were less interested in participating in training and development programs.
  10. Their work productivity went down.

According to Gardner, if an employee demonstrated at least six of these ten behaviors, his formula could predict with 80% accuracy that the employee was going to leave the company soon.

In an employee’s job market, this is a wake-up call for employers to start paying more attention to these key behaviors and worrying less about employees looking up outside jobs during their lunch breaks. For information on how to take a proactive approach to retaining employees, please see Three Easy Ways to Retain Great Employees or contact our HR team at

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Laura Lancaster, PHR, SHRM-CP

Author Laura Lancaster, PHR, SHRM-CP

Along with being a Master of Human Resources, Laura is a master of communicating and provides her clients with world-class customer service. She can really cut some rug on the country swing dance floor and enjoys musical theater in between motorcycle rides.

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