Much like the traditional canary in the mine, there is a sentinel species. Corporations and businesses have sentinel employees who can tell you a lot about the health of the organization. If you are able to identify these workers, you may be able to use them and their habits to warn you of upcoming problems, and help you head them off before they become a major issue for your company. These workers are often the people that you see who are able to spot issues many overlook and because of that, they always seem to be able to leave a problem company right before layoffs or make judgments of a similar nature.
What helps make a sentinel employee? They are very often employees in the middle of the pack, so not people who you want to leave your company or people that you want to make sure that they stay with the company either. They fall into the somewhat silent majority who get their jobs done on time and well, but don’t go above and beyond to be noticed as extraordinary. Because they are in the middle, they are able to connect with a lot of different people throughout the company and learn a lot about its workings.
To find these employees and help recognize patterns within your own group, look to the past. Did you have anyone resign a few weeks or months before a significant event in the company’s history? What job area did they come from, and has that department had a history of people leaving on good terms before downturns in revenue or business? Is there a group of employees who all interact on business or social levels who have had reason to leave? If you recognize what information these people who leave are exposed to, you can figure out what they’re seeing and look at that to determine what you should change to prevent these issues from arising in the first place.
When you have employees leave, it is highly valuable to make sure to always conduct exit interviews. Many sentinel employees will be able to articulate the problems that caused them to look for another position, and that can help guide you to changes as well.
This article was written by Gillian Kruse for Small Business Pulse