Compared to other business disciplines, human resources (HR) has historically had a reputation as being somewhat ‘fluffy’ — dealing with emotional and human considerations, HR departments have long struggled to support their decisions with hard facts and tangible data like other departments like sales and marketing.

But in recent years, things have changed. The rise of Experience Data as a currency of business has allowed HR teams to attach tangible metrics to the previously intangible. And data analytics tools have helped them to quantify the value that HR initiatives drive back to the business.

As this data-driven approach evolves, it’s opening up the door to scaling employee feedback programs through automation and diving deeper into feedback with predictive analytics that allow HR teams to pre-empt any challenges lurking around the corner.

Employee attrition is the perfect example. Where once, HR teams were often blindsided by employees who – to HR at least – unexpectedly quit their jobs, now, through predictive analytics, the HR department can now spot the early signs of attrition and step in early to improve the experience for that employee before it’s too late.

Recently, at Qualtrics we examined this exact issue, running big data analysis on 5,000 employees around the world. We identified three key signs that staff are likely to leave their jobs in the coming months:

1. Weekend workers

Those who regularly work on weekends are the most likely to leave their jobs. Of those planning to quit within the next two years, our analysis found that 65 per cent regularly check their emails on weekends, while 25 per cent check work emails every weekend. Three quarters of potential leavers also claim that their employer is unsupportive of a healthy work-life balance.

In order to spot potential flight risks, the HR team should look to quantify who is working at weekends, and how often, as well as how their employees feel about their work-life balance. Whether it’s through existing data in your HRIS or by soliciting regular feedback through pulse surveys, it’s essential to understand these numbers if you’re going to take corrective action.

2. Highly stressed employees

The second group that our analysis identified as likely to leave their jobs are those showing high levels of emotion and increased stress at work. Of those considering quitting, more than half (55 per cent) feel emotional or stressed about work ‘most of the time’. For those that reported high levels of stress every day, this figure jumps to 61 per cent.

To address this, HR departments need to work directly with employees and teams to identify what the key drivers of stress in the the workplace are. In the majority of cases these won’t be endemic, but will be the result of a small number of bottlenecks throughout the company. If HR can help to identify these bottlenecks and work with managers to address them, both employee satisfaction and staff retention will inevitably increase.

3. New starter engagement

While there are plenty of factors that encourage people to leave their jobs, the reality is that certain groups within an organisation are statistically more likely to move on. According to our research, the less time an employee has been with the company, the more of a flight risk they represent. Those in junior positions, such as individual contributors and junior managers, are also more likely to leave, with nearly half of ‘high flight risk’ employees being under the age of 35.

To understand the experience for new starters, it’s essential that the onboarding experience is included in any employee feedback program. Understanding early engagement, what drives it, and what actions you can take to improve it will help to shape those formative months and years as new employees settle in to their roles.

While these insights are the tip of the iceberg, they do provide a useful starting point for HR managers looking to identify the weak points across their organisation. The key to addressing them is understanding them, so you should look to answer 3 key questions at each stage – what’s the overall experience for new starters? What are the key drivers of that experience? What are the actions you can take to have the biggest positive impact on them?

By understanding and staying aware of these issues, HR teams can take action before they manifest as staff attrition. In order to do that, HR managers must first ensure that they have the combination of a real understanding of their staff and the data to support their decisions.