Departing employees can create a lot of challenges for an organization. First and foremost is the loss of knowledge and the extra burden placed on remaining staff as you search for a replacement. Employees who quit can also do some damage on the way out, exfiltrating data for financial gain or even adjusting pricing and other information to cause grief for their soon-to-be-former employee. Whether you’re looking out for ways to keep your team members satisfied or searching for a potential security vulnerability, there are several signs your employee is about to quit.
Before we discuss the red flags, however, let’s look at why IT workers specifically might head out the door.
Why Might Your IT Workers Quit?
According to the most recent IT Career Outlook report, one-third of IT workers planned to find a new job in 2018. And while 70 percent of those surveyed said they’re content with their actual job, two-thirds said their compensation is lacking, making it the No. 1 reason why IT staff might leave. Other reasons include:
- A desire to learn/advance new IT skills (chief among them are security and cybersecurity)
- Better work/life balance
- Lack of IT priority within the organization
- Better benefits and perks
For those driven by burnout to quit – a very common trigger for IT workers jumping ship – it’s often due to poor leadership and unclear direction, work overload, a toxic culture, lack of control and career growth, and insufficient rewards.
The Risks of Departing Employees
When an employee quits, the most immediate concern is that loss of knowledge and manpower. The cybersecurity skills gap is expected to reach 1.8 million by 2022, and such a skills gap cam hamper an organization’s ability to innovate and serve the market, as well as leaving those companies who do choose to charge ahead with potential vulnerabilities.
But it can have a ripple effect throughout the company – and even outside of it. Customer relations can suffer, depending on whether the employee was customer-facing or supported customer-facing roles. IT staff who, for instance, are responsible for working on customer-facing portals or technology could leave your organization in the lurch for updating and maintaining the success of that technology.
Employee morale may also suffer – when one person quits, others may begin to feel uneasy about their current situations. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including the associated workload and general concerns about the long-term future of the company (i.e., “Why did they quit? Do they know something I don’t?). And turnover costs can be significant – up to 21 percent of an employee’s salary in some cases.
Departing employees may also pose a security risk when they take data out the door with them. IT staff, in particular, may know of ways to exfiltrate or change data while escaping attention. In fact, half of all workers who changed or lost their jobs said they’ve taken confidential company data, and 52 percent say they didn’t see the use of such documents as a crime. For that reason, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends:
- Monitoring email traffic and computer access for unusual activity
- Conducting exit interviews and inventory checks
- Obtaining a return-of-property certificate
- Issuing reminders of confidentiality obligations
- Terminate access to computer assets and accounts as soon as the employee departs.
13 Signs Your Employee is About to Quit
According to the Harvard Business Review, there are 13 signs an employee is about to quit. For productivity-related signs, this might be measured in output, where it’s fairly obvious that an employee is no longer pulling their weight. You can also measure this by looking at how often they’re logging into mission-critical applications like Salesforce – an employee who isn’t using your systems as much as they used to could be slacking due to an impending move.
- Lower work productivity than usual
- Acting like less of a team player than usual
- Doing the minimum amount of work more frequently than usual
- Less interested in pleasing their manager than usual
- Less willing to commit to long-term timelines
- A negative change in attitude
- Decreased effort and work motivation
- Less focus on job-related matters
- More often expressing dissatisfaction with their current job
- More often expressing dissatisfaction with their supervisor
- Leaving work earlier than usual
- Loss of enthusiasm for the mission of the organization
- Less interest in working with customers than usual
The authors pointed out that these behaviors tend not to be the overt signs we usually look for – for instance, wearing interview attire to work, leaving a resume on the printer, or missing work for random or unexplained appointments with greater frequency.
While many of these revolve around less productivity and output, suddenly increasing time spent on systems can also be a sign that an employee is about to leave – and take customer or company data with them. Logging into systems like Salesforce or Office 365 after hours or remotely or running more reports and exporting more data than usual can be signs that an employee is about to quit and take your sensitive data out the door. By monitoring your systems as well as touching base regularly with employees, you can spot any such security issues before they become a larger problem.
In general, it’s recommended to spend time with your staff to make sure they’re being heard and you’re doing what you can to keep them in the organization. Help them learn the skills they crave, provide a safe channel for communicating issues like work/life balance and burnout, and have regular standing meetings to discuss any concerns. Your employees are your greatest asset – and it’s up to you to do everything you can to keep them satisfied and working hard for your organization.