Quitting is contagious

September 20th, 2021 | From our CEO

A True Story.

First, Jackie quit. She was a solid performer, but not exceeding expectations in any of the individual KPI’s they were keeping track of in the Professional Services company. Paul, her leader did not really worry about her resignation. Her competencies were easily replaceable – very generic in fact…

But then something unusual happened…

Her farewell party had an unusually high participation rate. Very close to 100%. The normal participation rate for farewell parties was about 50%. People were always busy with either clients or personal arrangements. But not this time. Jackie was apparently special. Some even cried, when they gave her the biggest farewell Paul had seen yet.

Paul sensed Jackie carried personal qualities that he was not aware of.

“Jackie had been the glue in the organization. Known to all. Except for the leaders.”

In the following months, Paul experienced 3 times as many resignations from all areas of the business. Paul started to worry. After about five months he decided to delve into the resignation letters and the exit interview documentation.

Here he found one common theme. The absence of Jackie in the workplace. The one person people could always turn to for a laugh or a piece of advice when they needed it the most. Jackie had been the glue in the organization. Known to all. Except for the leaders.

Regretfully, Paul did not know the importance of Jackie in the organization. If he had known, he would have treated her differently to retain her. Maybe changed her role or approved more of the social activities, she had recommended during her 4 years with the organization. At least he would have been aware.

However, Paul is not alone… In the 13 years, I have been doing Organizational Network Analysis, leaders have never been capable of identifying people like Jackie. Never – like in not one single time!

When People like Jackie Quit Employee Flight Risk Probability Rises Sharply

In October 2018, Innovisor decided to collect data on resignations in all the organizations we work with. Large organizations, small organizations, across industries, in North America, in Asia, and in Europe.

Our hypothesis was that we would be able to measure the impact of resignations of key individuals in the informal networks. The results have been clearer than we expected. We have measured an up to 500% increase in employee flight risk probability within a six-month period if such individuals leave the organization. Quitting is one of the most contagious actions in any organization.

What is the Learning?

Paul wished that he had known the organizational risk he was running. The impact on the performance of Jackie’s resignation was much higher than he had ever seen before from any resignation. He wished that he would have been able to act proactive – maybe even retained her – and not reactive five months after her resignation.

And with good reason! Data from the Work Institute shows that 77% of employee turnover can be prevented if you are proactive. You just need to know your Jackie, so you know where to focus your efforts.

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