Powerful avoid-that-employer sign?

There are so many formal characteristics to consider when choosing a new employer: The development opportunities, the team, the boss, the processes, the location, remote work, growth plans and stability… oh, yes and the financial part of course, but this write-up is not for those that are ready to sacrifice their dream job for a larger check.

There are also soft characteristics to watch for: are the interviewers smiling, are they relaxed or stressed, is the interview flow more like Q&A or it is friendly discussion, are you judged by a computer or human, are you represented in front of your potential team or there are layers of people between the interviewers and your actual team.

These are all important characteristics, but this write-up will focus on one relatively new sign, which although subtle, is a composite indicator, quite strongly related to almost all company characteristics: The advance notice period. Yes, that’s right, the period stating how many months you are obliged to notify your company in advance of your departure. This little clause, taking almost unnoticeable place in your draft contract may tell you succinctly so much about the company.

We are living in a time of scarce educated workforce, which is almost always unavailable and rare. That is why, employers explain, it is necessary to raise the norm of 1 month advance period to 2 or more months. Thus the employer is supposed to be able to find suitable replacement for the leaving personal. Sounds logical?… at first glance, but let’s argue about it.

Imagine a company that knows how to build teams and cares about its people. The company knows exactly John’s role and contribution to the overall success: what are his professional qualities, strong and weak sides, where he fits best, how he feels today, what are his professional desires.

Such company would definitely notice when John starts to feel unhappy, and act long before he starts thinking of leaving, e.g. try to offer another opportunity matching better John’s expectations.

Such company would structure its teams so that there are no single points of failure. Tomorrow John decides to take parental leave – no problem – what’s the point of forcing a person to literally wait for 2, 3 months before he is able to pursue his new dream?

Such company, be it even a large enterprise, would not measure its success by the headcount of this or that office. Usually such companies argue that if John leaves, his headcount would be closed and the office would be forced to report lower headcount as compared to other company offices. Do you want to work for a luxurious office of prestige company, if you are treated as a headcount, if the office success is measured in headcounts, not in useful innovative products?

Lastly, when you see higher advance notice period, check the attrition rates. There is a chance that the company is just foolishly trying to lower its abnormal attrition. Question any number above 5% for large companies and 20% for startups.

I don’t understand the rising trend of the advance notice period. For me this is not fixing the core issues, not addressing why people are leaving, but are just trying to cover it all up in a naive way. On the other hand there are companies that care about their employees and treat them with utmost respect as people which are integral part the success. Usually such companies won’t hold you even for a day if you feel unhappy.

So next time you search for your next great adventure, you may also want to consider the notice period.