Staff come and go at most organisations. But do we really understand the reasons why, and what changes could have kept them?
by Donna Jordan
I was recently asked to get involved in helping to shape the way our organisation gathers information about why people choose to resign.
With fewer than a quarter of what we call “exit interviews” being completed, it seemed to me that there was something wholly misunderstood about the value of finding out why someone had decided to leave to go elsewhere, or in some cases resign from their role without another job to go to.
Employees don’t resign when they resign – their mental resignation has often happened much before.
I’ve heard it said that often people don’t leave an organisation, they leave a manager. If this is true, are you really going to receive honest feedback if your leaving process requests a person’s manager or supervisor carries out their ‘exit interview’?
For me, as the head of a small communications department in a large organisation, when someone in my team hands in their resignation, it often doesn’t come as a surprise. I expect to already have an inkling that my staff member is looking for opportunities elsewhere. Regular one to ones with them gives a really good insight into what they want in their career and personal development, and while my hands may be tied to offer promotion opportunities, it does help me look for training courses or situations where they can look to enhance and develop their skills.
It also gives me an opportunity to find out how they are feeling, how things are personally, and what outside factors may be impacting on them.
Asking for honest feedback when someone is leaving should be something everyone wants to do. Finding out what could have been better for them is a rich source of objective organisational intelligence. It can reveal issues with the culture, systems and processes, and can give opportunities to improve or assess a particular role or relationship. It can also be the last chance to change someone’s mind.
So is ‘exit interview’ the right term? Or should we be looking to conduct ‘stay interviews’ – to really find out what we could do better to help motivate, develop and keep our staff.
As an organisation we are now looking at ways to improve our processes, with a new online survey asking relevant questions, the development of a managers’ guide for leavers (with an expectation a chat will take place with the individual before they leave), a review of the HR process and we’re considering using our coaches and mentors to generate an independent face-to-face discussion over a cup of coffee (and cake!), soon after the resignation has been received.
I’m proud to be helping our organisation to develop this, it supports a positive culture where the organisation is big enough to listen, expose itself to criticism and learn from the feedback received.
Donna Jordan is head of corporate communication at Nottinghamshire Police
image via CGP Grey