Predicting future resignations: Why it's a waste of time

Social conventions in the United States mean that, for the most part, managers only get two weeks notice when an employee leaves. Legally (unless there is a contract), employees can simply walk away from a job with no notice. (And, of course, companies can terminate employees with no notice as well.) This is called at-will employment, and it's how most jobs in America operate. Because it generally takes much longer than 2 weeks to recruit a replacement, wouldn't it be great if managers could know, in advance, who was planning to leave?

Absolutely. It would solve lots of problems for businesses and allow them to make thoughtful searches for candidates and even have the current employee train their replacement before leaving. And to this end, Entelo has a new app that can predict who is likely to leave their jobs.

Companies should stay far, far away from this.

Why? Because it doesn't predict perfectly, and managers tend to take it personally when people do resign. If HR starts throwing reports on managers' desks saying, "The following 3 people are likely job hunting," what do you think will happen?

If the manager is awesome, he or she might talk with the employees, see if they have any concerns and fix those problems, thus enticing the employees to stay longer with the company. But if the manager is awful, what you might see is an increase of backlash against employees. Employees could be treated poorly, carefully monitored and even fired for the sin of looking outside the company -- even if they aren't actually looking.

Good managers are already meeting regularly with their employees to make sure things are going well and to resolve any problems. Bad managers don't need another tool to torture their employees with.

The app can absolutely be useful for recruiters who are happy to land great candidates (who may or may not have begun actively job hunting), but it shouldn't be used by internal HR to try to predict their own company's future. Instead, try these things.

Conduct regular, anonymous, employee satisfaction surveys. Anonymous is key here, as otherwise you can't trust the results. But, HR should keep an eye on actual satisfaction.

Hold 1:1 meetings with direct reports. Managers should regularly be speaking with their employees about projects and goals, but also about problems.

Help employees with career development. The reality is, very few people want to stay in their current job forever. Almost everyone wants to move up, or at least sideways. Managers who recognize this can help employees make transitions. If your employees trust that you'll support them, they'll let you know when they think it's time to make a jump to a new opportunity. This gives you the same advance notice as the app will, but without the cloak and dagger behavior.

Give managers training on how to manage. Many managers are thrust into leadership roles without receiving any training. They know how to be good employees, but not good managers. You'll be far more likely to keep your good employees if you have good managers. It's worth the cost to train and develop your managers.