Departing employees can create many challenges for an organization. First and foremost are the loss of knowledge and the extra burden placed on remaining staff as you search for a replacement. But employees who quit can also do damage on the way out, exfiltrating data for financial gain or even adjusting pricing and other information to cause grief for other employees. Whether you’re looking out for ways to keep your team members satisfied or searching for a potential security vulnerability, there are several signs that your employee is possibly 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 research from global staffing firm Robert Half, 43% of workers plan to find a new job in the next twelve months. When asked what would convince them to stay at their current job, 43% of employees said a pay increase, and 20% said more time off/benefits. Other reasons for departure include:
- A desire to learn/advance new IT skills (particularly security and cybersecurity)
- Better work/life balance
- Lack of IT priority within the organization
- Better benefits and perks elsewhere
For those driven to quit by burnout – a common trigger for IT workers – 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 five million unfilled positions. This can 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.
It can also 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 could leave your organization in the lurch for updating and maintaining that technology successfully.
Employee morale may also suffer – when one person quits, others may begin to feel uneasy about their situation. 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 – as much as 150% 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 without detection. In fact, half of all workers who changed or lost their jobs said they’ve taken confidential company data, and 52% 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
- Terminating access to computer assets and accounts as soon as an employee departs
13 signs your employee is about to quit
According to Harvard Business Review, there are 13 signs an employee is about to quit. When it comes to productivity, which is usually measured in output, it’s often 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.
The full list of the 13 signs your employee is about to quit include:
- Lower work productivity
- Acting like less of a team player
- Doing the minimum amount of work more often
- Less interest in pleasing their manager
- Less willing to commit to long-term timelines
- A negative change in attitude
- Decreased effort and work motivation
- Less focus on job-related matters
- Expressing dissatisfaction with their current job
- 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 normal
Many of these behaviors deviate from 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 may be about to leave and take customer or company data with them. Logging into systems like Salesforce or Office 365 after hours, remotely, or running more reports and exporting more data than usual are all signs that an employee might be motivated to quit and take sensitive data out the door. By monitoring user activity in your mission-critical systems and regularly touching base with employees, you can spot security issues before they become a larger problem.
In general, it’s recommended that you spend time with your staff to make sure they’re being heard and you’re doing what you can to keep them at your company. Help them learn the skills they crave, provide a safe channel for communicating issues like work/life balance and burnout, and have regular 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.