How to Deal With At-Risk Employees


Your employees are far and away your business’s most valuable asset. When people leave an organization, it can have a devastating effect on workplace culture and employee morale. With the onboarding process being costly and time-consuming, losing employees, especially top performing ones, just isn’t worth it. In the majority of cases, at-risk employees (or flight-risk employees) can be encouraged to stay with the organization.

All it takes is a leader willing to improve employee engagement and offer their employees a path to a more meaningful role within the company. By effectively dealing with at-risk employees and preventing them from leaving, you’ll save yourself a great deal of grief, preserving workplace culture, employee morale, and saving time and money that goes into onboarding and training new employees.

Why you should deal with at-risk employees before it’s too late

Unless an employee absolutely has to go, it’s in your best interest to retain talent wherever possible. Not only is it costly and time-consuming to train new employees, but it can also be difficult to find great people. Adding remote work to the mix, without training and onboarding employees in-person, it’s infinitely more difficult for your business to know whether somebody new is a good fit for the company.

Plus, the logistics of hiring during a pandemic makes onboarding even more complicated, as you may not have the option to meet with new hires in-person. Even with vaccines on the way in the very near future, the general consensus from experts is that things won’t return to “normal” for quite some time, as even a vaccine isn’t being considered a “silver bullet”.  Layer in the unavoidable human factor involved in letting an employee walk away in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, and it becomes clear that dealing with at-risk employees is the easier option.

How to identify at-risk employees

Employees leave for many reasons, but it’s usually because they haven’t been given opportunities to move up within the organization, don’t feel challenged or engaged by their work, or don’t feel appreciated or valued. Another possibility is that they’re overworked, which can lead to burnout.  These are all things that can be solved by competent leaders, but it can be difficult to identify at-risk employees, especially when you’re not sure what to look for. Thankfully, there are a number of “tells” that can help employers identify employees who are about to quit or leave the company.

The most obvious sign that an employee is at-risk is that their performance has recently taken a turn for the worse. When high-performing employees suddenly change their work habits and begin to fall behind, fail to meet deadlines, or turn in lower quality work, there’s a good chance that there’s something major going on in their personal or professional life and they’re at risk of leaving. In much the same way, when employees are overworked, it can lead to increased stress and a host of other issues, ultimately pushing employees out. 

Employee performance can be tracked in near real-time with productivity intelligence software like Prodoscore, which integrates with many workplace solutions to track productivity and assigns a unique “productivity score” to each employee. These scores let you track an employee’s performance over time, so you can identify trends and compare performance to other team members and the organization as a whole.

Other signs that an employee is at-risk of quitting include normally active employees suddenly becoming less active during meetings, offering up fewer ideas and suggestions, taking longer to reply to phone calls, emails, and messages, or perhaps not responding at all. This usually means that an employee has become less engaged in their role with the company, avoiding interactions with colleagues and managers as a result of their lack of engagement. A lack of interaction could very well mean that an employee has already decided that they’re going to leave, making immediate intervention a necessity. Lack of engagement could also mean employees being absent more often, taking longer breaks, showing up to work late, or leaving early.

How to prevent at-risk employees from leaving

Once you’ve identified which employees are at-risk of leaving, you can focus your efforts on prevention and improving employee retention. The first (and easiest) step to keeping employees is to make them feel valued. 

Giving employees the praise and recognition they deserve can go a long way in maintaining morale, making them feel like valued members of the team and ensuring that their efforts are being recognized. After all, what’s the point in working to the best of your abilities if your efforts go without praise or acknowledgement? Make sure your employees know that you appreciate them and their hard work by celebrating achievements and victories, even small ones.

Providing employees with a roadmap to better opportunities within your organization is another great way to prevent them from leaving. Many at-risk employees simply want opportunities to move up internally, so providing them with that insight can go a long way. Offer to pay for professional development opportunities and work with them on a genuine roadmap that will take them into the role they desire, whether it’s further education, training, or experience. Show your employees how they can get there, and help them realize their goals.

Lack of autonomy is another reason for disengaged employees who are at-risk of leaving - nobody wants to be constantly micromanaged, nor do they want to have to rely on others to succeed. 

Giving your employees the freedom to take control over their role and work without constant supervision or management can be extremely helpful for improving engagement. Self-sufficient employees feel more trusted, have more control over their direction within your business, are capable of making their own decisions, and can ultimately become far more successful members of the workforce.

Provide your team members with the training needed to complete tasks independently and offer them tools that will allow them to succeed. These tools can be used to enhance collaboration and communication in the workplace, and their use (or lack thereof) can be monitored using productivity intelligence tools like Prodoscore, allowing you to improve cloud tool adoption and provide additional training to employees who aren’t making the most of the tools provided to them.

Make sure your team is not overworked. Yes, there are going to be busy days, weeks, and even months. But, allowing employees to burnout can have detrimental effects on them personally as well as the organization. That could mean reallocating responsibilities, extending deadlines, or simply having an honest conversation about expectations. 

In the era of remote work, losing quality employees just isn’t realistic. Being able to successfully identify and deal with at-risk employees is critical to the long term health of your workforce, keeping employee morale high and not altering company culture. Knowing what to look for will allow you to intervene when employees are disengaged and ready to move on, providing bigger and better opportunities within your organization, making them feel more valued, respected, and trusted, and earning their trust.

Prodoscore can help you identify at-risk employees, star employees, and everything in between so you know how your workforce is operating. Contact us today for a demonstration.