Without a moment of thinking, you should be able to name the A-players on your team. He/she is a shining star who requires very little of your energy, willingly takes on the biggest challenges, outperforms their colleagues, has a positive attitude, is reliable, supports the team, and makes everyone around them a better employee. A-players are incapable of failure. They rise to the top because success is in their DNA. Famously, Steve Jobs once said that the A-players he recruited to Apple could outperform an average employee at a rate of 50 or 100 to 1.
Given that A-Players are often considered the most valuable asset to the organization (and rightfully so), it should disturb you to know that your A-Players probably have an Exit Strategy. Why would an employee who is wildly successful and adored by all consider leaving? Because they can! A-Players are confident that no matter the challenge, they will succeed. As a result, they don’t restrict themselves to the easiest offers available, and they don’t stick with an easy job due to fear of change. Additionally, A-Players are heavily recruited. Headhunters, corporate recruiters, and external recruiters alike know the reputation and legendary status of A-players in the industry and maintain close relationships for years just so they can have a chance at placing the individual in the future.
Knowing that your A-Players are a flight risk should remind you that retention is a lifestyle, not an exercise. Be on high alert for the following common signs that your A-Player plans to leave.
- Silence. If the employee suddenly seems distant and stops engaging in small talk, consider it a red flag. Often when an employee plans to leave, they disconnect from others partially out of guilt but also to reduce the chance that they will spill their secret. When an individual is interviewing for another job, they’ve likely given bogus excuses for absences that are easy to forget when engaging socially.
- Takes a backseat. Because A-Players know they can always depend on themselves to be successful, they typically choose to be in the driver seat as often as possible. When an A-Player suddenly seems to position others as the lead or key point of contact, it’s likely they are setting the stage for a smooth transition upon their departure.
- Giving up the fight. Superstar employees have little tolerance for average performance and mediocrity. Therefore, they often lead the charge and demand nothing less than excellence and perfection. As a result, it becomes evident that something has shifted when an A-Player stops fighting for what is best. If they just shrug at noticeable errors, poorly constructed plans, and ill-advised strategy, then they’ve already detached their identity from the mission of the organization.
- Their best friend left. While this retention red flag is applicable to any employee, the dynamic differs slightly for a superstar. Anytime an employee loses their closest work friend, there’s a good chance that friend plans to bring others along on their next journey. But for an A-Player, though, because they know they can and will be successful anywhere, they choose to be successful working alongside people they enjoy.
- Another A-player left. As the recruiting anecdote says, “A-Players recruit A-Players. B-Players recruit C-players.” In other words, superstars purposely surround themselves with other successful people who they believe will challenge them to be better. Average performers prefer to pad the team with expendable colleagues. This allows the average employee to remain under the radar and comfortably outside of the low performer spotlight. All A-Players have a vision of their dream team. The dream team consists of the hand-selected, respected colleagues they would recruit if they took on a leadership position themselves. When an A-Player leaves, they always look for ways to re-assemble their A-team.
- LinkedIn. Unless the individual is in a sales role, there are likely only two reasons why their LinkedIn activity has become more frequent. When a person joins a new organization, they’re often very active on LinkedIn as they make new connections and share the positive news of their job change. Then over time, the posts become more sporadic and less frequent. When activity heats up again, it’s a virtual guarantee that the individual is networking their way to a resignation.
- Your gut tells you there’s a problem. Finally, if you’re worried that the individual is planning to leave, then you’re probably right. Whether you can articulate the signs or not, if your gut is telling you something has changed, then you’re probably right.