Retaining Employees

Client Paul Asks: I have a real problem with attrition. I ask my team if there’s anything wrong. They all say everything is fine. But then they resign and leave for another job. The cost of training new hires is just killing me.  I have to find out how to retain my employees.  Can you help?

Coach Nicole Answers:  Paul, I can absolutely help you implement strategies to ensure employee retention. When employees are hesitant to open up about a problem in the workplace, it’s necessary to determine what’s going on within the company culture. There are several reasons for high turnover.

  • The boss may not encourage criticism or negativity.  If employees have an issue with the leadership style of the boss, it’s unlikely they will be forthcoming with reasons why they are leaving.
  • Co-workers, other leaders, or work conditions may be caustic and unhealthy for workers and it’s easier to leave than try to change the system.
  • Politics and poor communication among the various layers of management may prevent workers from feeling valued, appreciated or heard.

Paul, since you have not had success with receiving feedback from your employees, try conducting exit surveys and interviews with those who are leaving.  Make sure to assure these individuals there will be no repercussions for sharing their honest opinions on the matter.

Here are some action steps to take.

1. Create a written resignation survey with HR. Make a list of relevant questions you’d like answered. You want your questions to be easy to answer and to invite an honest response. They might be something like this.

  • What motivated you to seek a different job?
  • What elements of our company or team could be improved upon?
  • What changes might have encouraged you to stay?
  • If you had been the manager, what would you have done differently?
  • What three things would you recommend to create happier employees?
  • What three things would you recommend to create a happier work environment?

2. Hold an exit interview. Second, after the resignation, you need to structure time for an exit interview.  I would recommend giving the employee the survey before meeting with him and going over his answers during the exit interview.

And I suggest having a little time between seeing the survey and talking to the employee.  Criticism is always tough to take. Take some time to ensure your initial reaction is not defensive.

If you want to solve your retention problem, you need to find out why your employees are resigning.  The purpose of this exit interview is to find out more.  Do the answers to the survey leave you needing more information?

Suppose the employee says, “Everyone was so negative”  Wouldn’t you like to know who “everyone” is and how that negativity was demonstrated?

3. Collate results. Just because the employee says it, doesn’t mean it’s true.  But if several of your departing employees mention a similar problem, you have some answers to your retention problem.

Paul, you will not solve this problem overnight.  But if you survey employees about their retention after their resignation, you are more likely to get truthful answers. Even if the results are uncomfortable, you have a starting point to change and improve.