Taking a Closer Look at Employee Turnover

Separation. Termination. Departure. No matter what you like to call it, the fact remains the same: People on your team will come and go.

Turnover is interruptive, expensive, and inconvenient. But, like most things, it can also be an opportunity to learn and grow. Here are 2 ways to transform turnover lemons into organizational lemonade.

1.) Set up transition processes

Every employee is different, and each person has their own reasons for leaving— or being terminated. But your separation process should always be smooth and consistent.

If an employee is leaving voluntarily, always request a letter of resignation. This will document the reasons for the departure and help protect your organization against subsequent unemployment claims or other legal challenges.

If it’s an involuntary termination, make sure the employee’s supervisor and someone from HR are both present during the termination conversation. This will prevent any confusion over what transpired during the discussion.

In either case, you’ll want to cover the following:

  • Departure procedure and timeline
  • Staff communication plan
  • What happens with unused PTO
  • Severance pay, if applicable
  • Eligibility for benefits continuation
  • Employee office clean out/personal items
  • The return of all company property and equipment
  • Review of non-compete or non-disclosure agreements
  • Your policy on providing references
  • Exit survey details or instructions
  • Who to contact with any questions

You’ll also want to make sure processes are in place to cancel access to company credit cards, logins, systems, equipment, vehicles, and facilities.

2.) Conduct exit interviews

If you really want to know why your employees are leaving, you have to ask them. And listen carefully to what they say.

Exit interviews aren’t without issues. Many employees are afraid to speak candidly for fear of leaving on a bad note, burning bridges, or upsetting important business/industry connections. They may also want to receive positive recommendations or referrals as they move forward.

Despite this potential hurdle, putting together a solid exit interview program can yield critical feedback and information to help you uncover internal problems with company leadership, management, training, or morale.

To get the best results from your exit interviews, you’ll want to put some thought into your strategy and execution.

To encourage honesty:

Resist conducting interviews immediately when emotions are high

Do not have the employee’s former supervisor conduct the interview

Assure confidentiality of responses

Remain neutral and keep an open mind

For better data:

Avoid impersonal online surveys and general, multiple choice questions

Ask each person the same questions for consistency (You can branch off from there as needed)

Consider a follow up interview a few months out (Some research shows that people are more willing to give honest answers once they are farther removed from the situation)

To build credibility:

Have these conversations in person or on the phone

Treat former employees with respect and gratitude

Explain your purpose – to help keep the organization from losing more good employees

Make sure the interviewer is someone with the power to make change within the company

For increased effectiveness:

Focus on interviewing high-quality employees you didn’t want to lose

Listen more than you talk

Do not take sides or suggest fixes

Asking the right questions

Exit interview questions should explore topics like company culture, leadership, morale, development, training, workload, expectations, management, and compensation. A few examples include:

  • Was your work adequately acknowledged, appreciated, and compensated?
  • Were you given adequate training, tools, and support?
  • Did your workload seem fair, appropriate, and manageable?
  • Could you see career development options within the organization?
  • What was your relationship with your manager like? Your colleagues? Your team?
  • How would you describe the company culture and morale?

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, one emerging best practice is for organizations to ask this simple question:

Please complete the sentence “I don’t know why the company doesn’t just ____.”

This one question alone can uncover top employee frustrations and trends.

Uncovering the truth

Is your employee turnover part of the natural business cycle, or do you have some serious organizational issues that need fixing? A revolving employee door could be normal for your industry— or an opportunity for contemplation and growth.

Having a consistent, smooth exit process in place can help ease the pain associated with employee departures. But conducting exit interviews to find out why good people are leaving will allow you to answer the age old question:

Is it them or is it you?


Photo by Yulia Ryabokon 

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