Retention, Retention: How to Know Why Employees Leave

The job market is currently very hot for employees, with a record level of job openings and the lowest unemployment rate seen in a half-century. As a result, your company might be going through a relatively high level of turnover.

Exit interviews may not be a good method of eliciting the reasons an employee leaves.

Employees leaving can impact productivity and morale. If the hiring process doesn’t go smoothly, it can affect the bottom line as well. Business leadership therefore rates retention strategies and procedures very highly. Retaining top employees keeps companies humming smoothly along.

Exit Interviews May Not Work…

One business strategy to heighten retention is the exit interview. To staunch any ebbing of employees in your company, it can help to know why they’re leaving, and the exit interview can be a place where they are asked.

However, as a recent Harvard Business Review pointed out, exit interviews are also widely thought to be ineffective. Many employees may feel that criticism will be negatively viewed, so they don’t give it. Others may withhold feedback because they feel the company doesn’t care about issues that concern them or even because they think upper management doesn’t deserve it.

Instead, companies should analyze patterns of how employees give notice and where they go.

…But These Methods May

Instead, the HBR authors suggest that these methods may be more productive.

1. Look for patterns in how employees resign.

Employees often choose to resign (or even leave without notice) in a manner similar to the way they feel they were treated at an organization. HBR pinpoints 7 distinct styles, ranging from the helpful and collegial (dubbed the Grateful Goodbye) and the standard notification of supervisor (By the Book) to the actively malicious (Bridge Burning) or ghosting (Impulsive Quitting).

It can be helpful to make note of these styles for every resignation and then review patterns once data has been sufficiently aggregated. A high level of negative styles may indicate your corporate culture needs to reassure employees of their importance to the company.

2. Talk to coworkers.

Coworkers close to the employees may be able to supply valuable information about why they think the person quit. However, this also runs some risk of replicating the issues found in exit interviews; people may be reluctant to be candid if the reasons are negative. They may also not be willing to discuss a friend and ex-colleague. It’s a good idea to acknowledge potential issues if you elect to use this method.

3. Find patterns in where employees go.

It’s a good idea to gather data on where former employees go, with an eye toward making any modifications that would enhance retention. If a number of employees go to a competitor, for example, it might be productive to do a comparative analysis of salaries, benefits, and company cultures. If theirs is more appealing than yours, you can make changes to make yours better.

If a number of employees are leaving for more flexible schedules or to have children, you might want to revisit your flex time or family leave policies, with an eye toward making your company first choice for people who want flexible schedules or families.

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