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How to recognize that your employees are preparing an exit strategy?

Published: June 14, 2018

It’s not easy putting together a well-rounded team, so naturally employers usually want to minimize defections and keep the same group in the office for the long term. However, qualified experts are in high demand those days in Australia, and many of them are leveraging the demand into higher pay. Lifelong loyalty to a single company is a disappearing phenomenon, as most employees are ready to jump ship whenever a better offer comes along. According to recent research, around 30% of Australian workers are actively thinking about finding another job and would gladly switch employers if the right opportunity opened up.

In order to avoid being caught off guard, HR departments should pay attention to subtle signs that indicate discontent and possible intention to change the career track. If the management understands what’s going on, there might be a chance for a resolution of the underlying issues. Here are some of the typical signs exhibited by employees who are quietly building an exit strategy:

Lack of passion for work

People rarely leave jobs they truly enjoy doing, so when an accomplished worker starts dragging through the work day, that usually means trouble is brewing. It may be difficult to decide whether lack of passion is the reason behind the decision to leave or merely its manifestation, but the outcome is largely the same. Unless something changes rapidly, the employee will find a more stimulating situation elsewhere. To alleviate the risk of this scenario, employers would be wise to periodically ask long-term employees to assume new responsibilities and acquire new skills, keeping them engaged and focused on practical matters at hand.

Tension with the management

Poor relationship with a direct supervisor can be a source of endless frustration, and many workers escape to another company to end the conflict. In many cases, they might not be dissatisfied with their employer, just the person they have to deal with every day. This leaves some space for savvy management, as a well-executed reassignment could quell the tensions without a need to pick sides. If several employees in the same department show displeasure with their direct manager, it may be prudent to change the person in charge rather than risk losing an entire team.

Hesitance to accept a new role

If an employee is keen to close the current chapter of his career, he will probably try to avoid starting new endeavours that would demand a lot of his time. While direct refusal may not be possible, stalling for time or angling for an easier assignment could be expected in those circumstances. In extreme cases when the worker has already decided to leave, he could barely do the minimum of his duties while having one foot out the door already. Such behaviour is usually out of character for top employees, so it may be enough to arouse suspicion if it suddenly starts occurring with regularity.

Repeated absences during office hours

Most employees will conceal their activities related to the job search, so you can’t really expect to find an updated CV left on the desk. However, if their search progresses to the interview stage, they will likely have to miss some time from the office to attend the meetings. It’s usually not possible for the current employer to guess when this happens since the absence will be excused by a plausible reason, but repeated mid-day trips outside should sound the alarms. Frequent occupation with private e-mail or Skype conversations during work hours could signal the same scenario, but it will be difficult for employers to get firm proof until it’s too late.

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