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Employers, This Is Your Guide To Avoiding Employee Turnover

Imagine going to the doctor because you don’t feel well. She gives you a form, which has ten options to choose from. None of these descriptors fully apply to your symptoms, so you select the closest one. You check the box that says, “I don’t feel well.” The doctor takes the sheet from you, nods her head, asks a few generic questions, and then sends you on your way. Sounds crazy, right?

Yet a similar thing happens every day in business. Employees, who resign, are asked to fill out a form indicating why they are giving notice. The form contains a list of reasons to choose from. They pick the closest descriptor they can find to describe their situation, even if it doesn’t exactly fit. Those who want to exit without fanfare will always choose the option that says, “Better opportunity,” which is the equivalent of “I don’t feel well.” The employer is satisfied (after all, a box has been selected) and no changes in the organization are made to prevent others from following suit. Occasionally, the topic of unwanted employee turnover will pop up, and an executive will ask HR to pull a report on employee turnover. The executive will quickly glance at the data and think, “Nothing surprising here. Everyone leaves for better opportunities,” The executive will then quickly move onto the next business item of the day. You can easily avoid this costly mistake. Here’s how: Expensive employee turnover will continue to rise until you have an answer to this one question:

Why do my employees feel they need to seek a better opportunity? I’m working with a client who is no longer willing to accept that expensive employee turnover is just the cost of doing business. She’s ready to learn the real reason why employee turnover is spiking to prevent this from happening in the future. I’ll be honest here. When I first started this project, I thought for sure I knew why employee turnover was on the rise, without even so much as speaking to one person who has left the company. Imagine my surprise when my assumptions were completely wrong! The data said one thing—yep, you guessed it. The good old, “leaving for a better opportunity,” reason took first place, yet again.

However, that’s not the real reason why people were leaving. I know from experience that people generally don’t seek other opportunities when satisfied with their current position. The question I needed to have answered was why these employees felt the need to seek a better opportunity. So, I got on the phone and spoke with a number of former employees. I spent considerable time mostly listening, as they described what it was like to work for this company. I quickly learned the underlying reason why employees were departing this organization, faster than the company can replace them. The company would have NEVER uncovered the REAL reason why employees were leaving in droves had I not gotten on the phone and had a conversation with these people as an impartial third party. And here’s the thing. I was able to provide the client with this critical information in less than two week’s time! Some of you may be thinking, “We already conduct exit interviews.”

That’s great, but how many people do you think are being totally honest in these interviews? My guess is not enough, or you would have already fixed the problem(s) that is causing unwanted employee turnover. Knowing the REAL reason(s) why people are leaving allows you to address issues and prevent future turnover. I’m confident that when my recommendations are implemented, unwanted employee turnover will drop dramatically. The fixes are not very costly (at least compared to the cost of churning people) and will lead to a much more engaged workforce, which will better serve their customers. Often companies look at their turnover data and THINK they know what’s wrong. My experience has taught me that you’ll never really know unless you’re willing to dig deeper. In situations like this, it’s best to engage an outside firm to do this on your behalf, as former employees will be hesitant to honestly answer these questions if there is even an inkling that their comments can be traced back to them.

This week’s assignment is to pull a report on employee turnover over the past several years and examine why people say they are leaving your organization. Count how many times the reason “Better opportunity” comes up. Cross-reference this report with notes from your exit interviews and see if you can determine a pattern as to why your employees sought a better opportunity in the first place. Then put a plan into place to fix those items that are in your control.

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