High staff turnover: Brave conversations with departing employees can save you a fortune.

Many people have worked in unhappy offices. But how many of us have ever been asked to share our views on what’s wrong and right with the way things are being done in a company? Generally, we’re ushered on our way, and end up getting things off our chest with people who have no power to improve a situation.

That’s, no doubt, because many bosses think we’ve got nothing of importance to share with them. Alternatively, some may find the truth hard to hear. Particularly bosses who haven’t done an exceptional job of managing people or have made poor business decisions. 

Human resources specialist Kay Vittee tackles the much over-looked issue of the exit interview, offering practical ideas on how to structure this delicate conversation. In this piece on high staff turnover, Kay notes that it costs about a fifth of a person’s annual salary to replace them, so it is in your interests to get a handle on why so many people seem to be leaving your company. – JC

High staff turnover: Brave conversations with departing employees can save you a fortune.

By Kay Vittee

Kay Vittee emphasises the importance for your bottom line of getting the truth out of departing employees.
Kay Vittee emphasises the importance for your bottom line of getting the truth out of departing employees.

Staff turnover is one of the most significant HR costs in any business. The direct costs seem obvious but based on a review of 30 case studies in 11 published research papers, it is estimated the cost to replace a worker is one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary.

The indirect costs are less obvious but potentially greater:

  • The loss of knowledge and experience,
  • Lowered productivity because of the vacant position and the increased workload of other staff taking on added duties and responsibilities, and
  • The possible negative impact on staff satisfaction and morale.

This means employers are continually looking for ways to improve recruitment and retention to minimise staff turnover, including:

  • Strategic behavioural interviews and assessments at the recruitment stage,
  • Continuous training and development programmes,
  • Competitive and equitable pay systems,
  • Employee benefits,
  • Performance incentives and recognition,
  • Staff relationship programmes, and
  • Succession planning interventions, e.g. mentoring, coaching and job-shadowing.

Knowing what your staff need and want from the employment relationship, and how they think of and compare you to your competitors, is imperative for the quality of your recruitment and retention strategy.

Getting honest input and feedback from the staff who are currently working for you is challenging because of the real concern that any negative comments may jeopardise their chances of promotion, recognition and or rewards within the company.

Gather valuable feedback from exit interviews

Although not without some of the same trepidation – even though specific to securing a future work reference, maintaining friendships and his professional network – interviewing an employee who has already made the decision to leave will almost always produce more balanced honest input.

Conducting a strategically-designed and well-executed exit interview with departing employees can reveal vulnerabilities, deficiencies and threats within your business and industry which can show you where you need to make changes in your organisation.

If this information is to be truly valuable, it needs to be collected over time so allowing you to identify patterns or trends that point to objective, rather than subjective, contexts. The interviews also need to follow a strict professional format and schedule to ensure consistency and integrity in the data collection process.

Cover these 5 topics in your exit interview

1.    Reason/s for leaving,
2.    Levels of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with various aspects of the employee’s employment experience, including nature of the job, working relationships, management, pay and benefits, policies and procedures, training, recognition, opportunity for growth,
3.    Suggestions for change and or improvements,
4.    Advice on what skills and qualities are needed in his replacement, and
5.    If the opportunity presents itself, and if the company is interested in keeping the employee, negotiate how his decision can be reversed.

To eliminate any confidentiality and anonymity concerns, partner with a third party facilitator, especially if you don’t have a dedicated HR department or objective HR professional.

Whether outsourced to a third party or conducted and managed internally, you can’t overestimate the potential of a successful exit interview to provide valuable inside information to advise and inform on effective recruitment and retention strategies.

Kay Vittee is the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions and previously she worked at Absa. 

This article is republished here on Biznews.com with the kind permission of HR Pulse – The knowledge hub for HR professionals.

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