A lot has been written about why employees quit; with people managers taking a brunt of the blame. But precious little has been discussed about the “when” and unsurprisingly managers can’t do much about most of those timings – or can they?

“Yo I couldn’t give a toss, about my shitty job

Wrote a letter to my boss “Man you really are a slob”
Definition of a dog, wishing I was gone
Kicking back with a six-pack, sitting on the lawn
But I’m not, ‘stead I’m here feeling overtired
Cos I don’t get no shine for my overtime
I got no desire to be busting for the loop
You’re lucky I don’t hustle for industrial dispute”

Quit your job – Thundamentals.


It is a well-established fact that attrition hurts the company (a lot!). And when the employee has been around in the organization longer, the cost of replacing his talent and implicit learning becomes exponentially higher. The cost of replacing an employee could be between 50% to 250% of their annual salary depending on skill-levels and seniority.

Research by CEB seems to show that among all the things that make employees evaluate their current employment situation, one of the topmost is their sense of how they are doing compared to others in their peer group or with where they expected to be in the life journey at a particular point in time.

Oh s*t, another year gone by!

Work Anniversaries, understandably are a time to reflect on where one’s career is going. Job-search activity seems to spike by 6%-9% around work anniversaries. Birthdays, especially milestone years like 40/50 seem to trigger another spike. Job search seems to spike by around 12% around Birthdays. Other events like school, college reunions also seem to have an impact on influencing an employee’s intent to leave.

Tower: “Mission 123, do you have problems?”
Pilot: “I think, I have lost my compass.”
Tower: “Judging the way you are flying, you lost the whole instrument panel!” (ATC Humour)

Early Warning Signals:

Technology today can help organizations look for early signals on whether their top talent is on the lookout for a change. Disengagement manifests in several ways – most notably in a drop in collaboration or participation in conversations revolving around appreciation and recognition of others. People managers could use smart platforms that can be configured to detect any change in communication patterns – especially around key events (like Anniversaries, Birthdays, Childbirth) in the employee’s life – and help run interventions. A one on one with the immediate supervisor or even with senior management might go a long way to assuaging the employee’s concerns about her future.

To preempt or not to pre-empt, that is the question:

 With due apologies to Shakespeare, there is always the question of if organizations should try to pre-empt a possible attrition especially, based on a point of time in one’s career. Researchers seem to be largely aligned with the fact that active pre-emptive intervention is the way to go. The alternative is of course that you plan for a counteroffer when the employee announces an intent to leave. CEB’s research data suggests that 50% of the employees who accept a counteroffer eventually leave.

Thus companies are far better off running active interventions to retain their top talent and reduce attrition.

Remember, it is human nature to focus more on the negatives than the positives. In the daily grind of deadlines, impossible-sounding project goals, heated planning meetings, budget standoffs – employees tend to forget the good times they had with the same colleagues they might be having friction with. Creating a video memoir of the “good times” around milestone dates helps employees to “relive” their journey in a positive frame of mind.

Other measures could range from skip-level interviews, HR monitored one on one with supervisors with a special focus on discussing the future of the employee to even actively internally cold calling employees who are identified as a flight risk with offers on internal job postings.

Oh! And that part about People Managers taking the brunt of the blame so far (the cliched – “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers”) is a bubble waiting to be burst. But that’s a topic for another post.

References and Acknowledgements: 

Why people quit, HBR, September 2016 Issue

The New Path Forward: Creating Compelling Careers for Employees and Organizations, CEB


The kwench Rewards and Recognition Platform helps companies understand engagement levels of their workforce through advanced Social Analytics. The “Carry Your Memories” product line create video memories for their employees at milestone events in their life. To know more please place an enquiry on our site.


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