You never like to see a finance staffer leave (OK, maybe not never), but you certainly don’t want your top performer to say sayonara to your department. There may be good reason to be worried: A whopping 73% of CFOs recently told Robert Half International they’re concerned about losing their top performers. That’s nearly double the number that felt that way a year ago.
Short of chaining them to their desks, if someone wants to leave, he or she is going to leave. But if you spot the signs of unrest early enough, you may be able to salvage this MVP (and avoid cranking up that oh-so-expensive hiring machine).
Be careful not to go overboard on the detective work, but if you spot several of the following red flags, you may want to act fast:
Red flag #1: Your superstar stops complaining.
Of course, if that individual offered a non-stop gripefest, he or she probably wouldn’t be one of your most valued employees. But you probably always can count on this person to speak up when a policy isn’t being uniformly enforced, staffers are feeling overburdened, approvers aren’t returning invoices to A/P, etc.
When you stop getting those tip-offs, it could be a sign your top performer just isn’t invested in what happens there anymore. With one foot out the door anyway, why bother to speak up?
Red flag #2: Your superstar no longer talks career path
One of the main reasons you so appreciate your peak performer is his or her drive to succeed. You probably always thought you’d lose them anyway but because they’d move up the corporate ladder, not to another company.
Most likely, you know your superstar’s career aspirations and approximate timetables for meeting them. You’ve probably already helped direct them on which skills to work on to meet those goals.
But beware: If that person stops bringing you the latest seminar catalogue or looking for confirmation of where a new internal vacancy may be cropping up, it could be a sign you have someone not planning on making a long career with you.
Red flag #3: A close co-worker was just promoted
And if, by chance, that impending vacancy is because a close friend, colleague, or even rival, just received a promotion, you’ll also want to keep a close eye on your MVP.
At times, top performers can be impatient to move up the ranks, especially if he or she has plenty of success in the current position. But if that individual thinks justifiably or not that it should have been them to earn the promotion, the temptation will be there to see if there isn’t another company that will oblige.
Red Flag #4: An increase in careless errors
You can probably count on your top performers for accurate, reliable and prompt work. So when you see information left out of a standard weekly report or your MVP can’t remember who he spoke to at that past-due customer’s A/P department, your radar should perk up.
That person is either overstressed or already mentally checked out.
Red Flag #5: Your superstar exhibits “covert job hunter” behavior.
Used to be, when you saw a staffer spending a lot of time in hushed conversations in a conference room, you wouldn’t be surprised if you got a resignation letter shortly after.
These days there’s a new telltale sign that your peak performer may have dusted off the resume: an inordinate amount of time checking cell phone voice mail.
Red Flag #6: A slew of HR-type inquiries
A top performer’s not going to leave any t’s uncrossed or i’s undotted when leaving a job. So if this person is asking about everything from how many unused vacation, sick and personal days remain, to COBRA coverage, you may have to brace yourself for news you probably don’t want to hear.