‘Tis the Season for Triggers. Do You Know the Flight Risks on Your Team?

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By Clark Barber

December 14, 2021
6 min read

By the time someone on your team has committed emotionally and mentally to a decision to resign, regardless of if they’ve handed in the letter, it’s likely too late to change their mind. Whether it is the lack of a challenge in their day-to-day tasks or projects, limited opportunity for development and clear career pathways in the organization or the potential for increased compensation and benefits, there are many motivating factors behind why individuals leave their jobs.

However, while understanding why a teammate has chosen to leave is undoubtedly useful information for a manager to have, knowing when they are most likely to depart may be just as valuable. For many leaders already consumed by the effects of the Great Resignation, the prospect of predicting attrition to retain high potentials may not be the lifeboat they need, but a welcome floatation device, nonetheless.

The 5 Times a Year When Your Team is Most at Risk for Leaving

Here are some of the most common times when your people are asking themselves career triggering questions, like: Am I happy in my role? Do I have a future at this company? What’s next for my career? Do I have enough time for my family?

  1. End of your fiscal year or after performance reviews
  2. End of the calendar year during the holidays
  3. Birthdays or anniversaries
  4. Personal life events (marriage, divorce, children, caregiving, acquiring new skills or education)
  5. Major external events (pandemic, natural disasters, economic shifts)

This list exists not to necessarily prompt dedicated calls or in-depth career path discussions solely at these times—those should be taking place all year long—but to help leaders be aware of the power milestones can have on the individual at key points. This list speaks to an endless cycle of influence these circumstances have on your team. And, while there will always be another event that pops up, whether your high potentials take those triggers as an opportunity to leave will depend on their engagement and satisfaction.

Leading with emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and a keen predictive sense can help your team feel validated and help you focus your efforts on those team members who may need it the most.

These milestones are merely triggers. The catalyst behind a choice to leave has likely been festering and should come as no surprise—lacking challenge, no logical career path, limited flexibility or feeling overworked and undervalued.

Why You Should Care?

A well-engaged team is likely a productive team. And when your team is engaged and productive, it not only increases morale, but also drives your organization’s performance. It is no surprise that when team members are feeling undervalued, it can bring down the overall team morale and cause unnecessary flight risks, impacting productivity and your bottom line. When a team member leaves it can have a negative effect on your department, your performance and even the team itself. You know firsthand how hard it is to replace good people, and training or onboarding new hires takes time, resources, and energy. At this stage, no leader can afford to ignore the power candidates have in the market today to take their talents anywhere, so there should be no question as to the value of retaining high potentials.

Keep Your High Potentials Motivated

Engagement is incredibly important to a high functioning team. If your team members are engaged, they’re more likely to see a future with your organization – after all, engagement fosters retention. If you are already measuring your team’s engagement level in an employee survey, you may have some benchmarks to work from. However, surveys are not the only source and your pulse on engagement should be as eclectic as your team itself.

Just as you need to address engagement through a variety of tactics, you also need to continue assessing throughout the year and by many different means. Consider skip level meetings, employee resource groups, and internal networking opportunities as ways to passively or actively gather information or make mental notes on how your team is engaging.

Having an accurate perception of engagement is only the beginning; taking action to elevate engagement is another. Here are some ideas to help lift engagement as you work on your team’s plan for the year:

  • Have candid, consistent conversations. Don’t leave development conversations for review time. At every level, normalize talking about career development. Throughout the year, have proactive conversations with your managers and team members about their career journeys. Depending on the individual’s level, consider starting with these basic questions: what do you like about your role? What are some teams/departments/groups you’re interested in learning more about? Are you interested in multi-department projects? Do you think you have the skills and tools to grow in your role?

  • Create talent succession plans. These should be tailored to your team and people and be updated frequently based on the check-ins you plan. Is your talent pipeline aligned with your strategic priorities? How are you elevating high potentials and underrepresented talent? Thoughtful succession planning can keep your goals and your team members’ needs in focus.

  • Create learning pathways. It is always the right time to let your critical talent know they are seen and valued—before they get a call from a recruiter. Investing in upskilling through development opportunities that map learning and upskilling to career advancement can be mutually beneficial and help keep your people motivated.

About Clark Barber

Vice President, DeVryWorks

As organizations accelerate digitalization efforts, employees across every function and level must evolve. Clark Barber works alongside his team to help organizations align the right talent with relevant learning pathways to reskill for the future of work. He partners closely with admissions, student services, and academics to ensure the employee experience and learning pathways meet client expectations.

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Have You Properly Hedged for These Career Risks on Your Team?

Finding fantastic people is tough enough, you need to make every effort to keep them engaged, excited by their work, and proud to be a part of your organization. You want to build a team that is willing to roll up their sleeves and tackle business challenges with unique perspectives and creative problem-solving strategies so your company can outperform the competition. Fostering this type of a team culture takes dedication and thoughtful planning but is fueled by engagement. Know the triggers that may spark attrition and seek to mitigate the ongoing catalysts by working to increase engagement year-round.

It is not a question of “if” your top talent will experience triggers that make them consider leaving, it is a question of “when.” What do you think your high potentials would say if they got the call from a recruiter tomorrow?

Can you identify who may be flight risks on your team? Learn how to engage and develop your team.