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The Reason Why People Leave is More Interesting

I always said that the turnover or attrition rate is not interesting and says very little. Why people leave organisations is more interesting, unfortunately, we don't know that.

Despite this being the most critical information, we hardly have any data on why people leave that could allow us to go back along the employee cycle and address those things. Instead, we take the hard data and report these human experiences as KPIs, and that's that.

It is like standing down the river, pulling out and counting dead bodies without going upstream to check why people fall into the river in the first place.

But how can we get this information when we know that exit interviews are broken?

This is where the role of the Employee Experience comes in, who has a relationship with people within the organisation that allows them to collect first-hand honest feedback. This is where leaders and managers' ability to monitor their teams and be aware of why people leave comes into the picture. As a manager or leader, would I want to know the truth about why my people leave? I think the answer is yes if the manager or leader is worthy of managing or leading people.

Six or so months ago, I advised a company to conduct anonymous but department-linked exit interviews two weeks after the employee had departed. This allows time for people to cool down in case the departure is not pleasant or for final settlements to be paid so employees don't feel they cannot give their honest opinions about the employer for fear of payment being compromised in any way.

It seems like it works. They now have sufficient data to prove that. Yes, sometimes the solution is that simple; we just need to think.

Going upstream and checking why people fall into the river can provide us with information we don't have today. We can identify:

  • Poor onboarding processes

  • Toxic leaders

  • Hiring mistakes

  • Lack of development opportunities which we can relate back to our talent pipeline management or mobility processes and tweak them

  • Or, we can realise that we are a pretty good employer in terms of the environment and people are generally very happy, but we pay below market.

Quantitative data is for measurement, and qualitative is descriptive. We must have qualitative data to interpret and make sense of the numbers that are presented to us. Without that, we are just busy pulling and counting dead bodies out of the river, not knowing why they died. This makes no sense when we claim that we care about employees and the organisation that pays us to act in their interest.

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