Great employees fuel the Silicon Valley engine. But keeping them can be a challenge. Like a card player who broadcasts the next move, maybe we can read the turnover signals in advance.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ten-year average for workers quitting jobs in the professional and business services category jumped almost 25 percent this past October.
Moving from job to job in Silicon Valley has always been common. There is always another Silicon Valley firm eager to hire away a star employee. Even average workers in popular fields can be treated like Jennifer Lawrence at a red carpet premiere.
When it comes to volatility, few careers can match high tech or consulting. I've spent the bulk of my career in those two worlds. For consulting, business travel can be interesting at first, but it gets old fast so people leave. And the toll the hours take on a social life is brutal. Then, there is the pressure of billable time and the stress of project completion. As one person told me when she was quitting, "There are easier ways to earn a living."
In the tech world, the motivations for leaving include more pay and options, desire for a different company culture or just chasing the next big idea. The reasons are myriad, but maybe the biggest reason for turnover is that it is so easy to find another job. And when people leave, they take experience and innovation out the door, often to a competitor. Maybe that's a good thing.
"Part of the reason Silicon Valley companies are so successful is that they're a recombination of people who have worked in multiple companies," Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn told Fortune magazine.
If it's so easy, why do people stay? Silicon Valley companies spend millions on retention. Does it work? Author and consultant Dr. John Sullivan studied Apple and Facebook. "The No. 1 attraction and retention tool at both firms was not the free transportation or food but instead, two simple factors. The first was the ability for employees to do the best work of their lives, and the second was to have their work impact the world."
Still, high tech workers move around a lot because everybody wants them, they are in demand. Having accepted so many resignations, I've learned seven signs your employee may be out the door.
• Friday Meetings. If someone wants to meet on a Friday afternoon and says, "It will only take five minutes," assume that person is about to quit. It's better not to wait until Friday; get it over with.
• Email Decline. Email engagement can be measured in the number of emails sent. Anyone with email production that drops in a big way is losing interest and will quit soon.
• Interview Blues. Anyone who does not want to participate in interviewing candidates. means they don't want to try to sell someone on an organization they will soon be leaving. It won't be long.
• Photos Vanish. When family and personal photos start to disappear gradually from the workspace, a letter of resignation will soon follow.
• Half Days. The person who takes "personal time off" but never for an entire day is probably interviewing. That is the colleague who takes half days off or says, "I am going to be a little late" is not long for his or her current work world.
• Personal Calls. Those people standing in the hall or the bathroom on their cellphone may not be chatting with Mom. The call might be an iPhone interview. (But could also be a sign they are ending a relationship, which might be even worse.)
• No Shows. Absence from the company holiday party or annual picnic might not be that important, but it could mean too that a quitter is developing. Or maybe not.
If someone quits, it is useless to try to talk that person into staying. In many ways a resignation is like a romantic breakup. When your boyfriend or girlfriend says, "I don't love you anymore," responding with "Yes you do!" doesn't make a lot of sense. The same is true at the office.
The first time I resigned from a job I was a nervous wreck. My speech was prepared, and I went into the resignation meeting with a list of things that needed to be done after I left. It was like a list you would hand a neighbor when you're about to go on vacation. There was no need, I left and, shockingly, they did just fine without me.
There is no disgrace in submitting a resignation. It happens a million times every day. My advice to employees is to make it a short meeting, don't look back, don't burn any bridges, and get excited about the next big thing.