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Quitting behaviors identified in biz professor's study

staff writer

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 01:01

A USU associate professor’s study that identifies signs of when an employee is going to quit their job is on its way to being published.

Tim Gardner said his research on how to tell if an employee is going quit their employment is applicable to both employees and employers now and in the future.

Gardner looked through online articles and found 53 cues of people leaving their jobs that were not backed up.

“We surveyed two groups of graduate students at two different graduate schools with work experience,” Gardner said. “We surveyed 100 managers and asked for cues that someone is leaving.”

There were 668 cues that people were leaving, Gardner said. They got rid of the duplicate responses, which narrowed it down to 116 cues.

“We surveyed about 150 managers and randomly asked them into two groups where they would describe current employees or employees that recently left,” Gardner said. “We asked them to look at the 116 cues and to say what they do and do not see.”

This reduced the list to 58 cues, he said. They were able to distinguish turnover employees and current employees and predict within a 75 percent accuracy whether behaviors describe someone who has quit or is going to quit.

“The positive way of looking at it is if managers can predict if employees are leaving, they can try to prevent them from leaving,” Gardner said. “They may give them a different assignment, see if there are problems with clients or colleagues.”

However, there is a downside as well.

“The dark side is that managers could let employees go if they feel they are going to go,” Gardner said. “There is a fear of sabotage or stealing of clients or company secrets when an employee gives a two weeks’ notice.”

Some behaviors that were not seen but one would expect to be seen when an employee left included working less hard, less willing to help others on projects, taking more time off, missing work for doctor appointments or taking more vacation days.

Behaviors thought to show up but in scientific analysis didn’t show up included employees seeking outside jobs, talking about time in the future when they would not working at that job, comparing pay to other companies, work avoidance, negligence, outspokenness and clock punching.

“What was predictive is disengagement,” Gardner said. “Employees who were less happy and less interested in pleasing management.”

In the last two employees to leave USU Charter Credit Union, there was one who showed signs they were about to leave and there was one where there weren’t any signs, said David Butterfield, the credit union’s president.

“The first one had become really disengaged and even negative,” Butterfield said. “They really kind of signalled that they were looking to leave. 80 percent of the time, that’s what we see.”

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