A new report by Mintel has established that one in three workers remain in a job for less than two years. And, since one in five of the 2,000 workers surveyed for the report said that they were thinking about changing jobs over the next year, the queues for the door marked ‘Exit’ aren’t getting shorter any time soon.   

As employers, we’ve got our work cut out for us, based on these figures.  Ever more acutely aware of the impact of high turnover on the bottom line, responsible employers are taking steps to address employee engagement at every stage of the employment lifecycle, including at the point of exit.  Because the fact is, everyone leaves eventually.  It might be retirement, redundancy, career change or sabbatical; it might be personal circumstances outside the employer’s zone of influence; it might be the lure and promise of great things from a competitor, or it might be something fundamentally adrift between the expectations of the employee and the reality of the job. Everyone leaves … but what matters is how that departure is handled.

The demise of the ‘job for life’.

Compare today’s working world with that of our grandparents’ generation.  Back then, a job was for life, and you were jolly grateful for it too.  By and large, you joined a company, started at the bottom, and worked your way up until retirement. Career advancement tended to come hand in hand with loyalty, length of service and output, and the focus was on climbing the ladder from within rather than gaining promotion through strategic job moves. As for long service awards – well, they existed, but you had to put in some seriously hard yards in those days before meriting the ubiquitous carriage clock. Everyone left eventually, but it was usually on the retirement ticket.

Fast-forward to today’s world, and the picture could not be more different.  Many factors have contributed to making the modern workforce far more footloose by comparison. Increased workforce mobility, greater economic volatility, the end of final salary pension schemes, the high visibility of job opportunities, and myriad other factors have contributed to breaking down the walls that were built so high for previous generations.  These days, if career satisfaction and advancement doesn’t come quickly and consistently enough from within, we’re only the click of a mouse away from the next job interview.

Why the quality of the exit process matters.

It is probably a safe assumption that most employers monitor leaver data, even if only from the most rudimentary volume driven angle.  But it is probably an equally safe assumption that only a small proportion of employers focus on the quality of the exit process itself.  And yet, how you bid farewell could make all the difference.

Here are four good reasons why:

  1. The value of feedback
    Good, bad or indifferent, everyone has opinions. And capturing the viewpoint of your people before they leave can give you valuable insight into what you are doing well as an employer, and where there is room for improvement.  Granted, asking one or two people won’t give you much in the way of reliable data, but over time, if you ask the right kinds of questions of your leavers, you’ll start to build up a picture that is hard to ignore as to what drives people to the point of resignation.  More crucially, by asking people not only why they decided to leave, but also what would have encouraged them to stay, you can start to put together a concrete plan of action that resonates perfectly with your workforce, by addressing the issues that really matter to them.  One thing’s for sure – you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken, and the kind of brutal honesty you get from your outgoing people might be just the catalyst for change that is needed, especially if the same few messages recur.
  2. ‘Actually, maybe I will stay?
    Resignation doesn’t have to be the end of the road.  A well-managed discussion around the reasons for an employee’s decision to move on might make all the difference.  Like any relationship, there has to be some give and take, but if there are changes that could make a significant and fast enough impact to encourage the employee in question to rip up the resignation letter and remain in post, it is worth knowing about them in time to prevent yet another valued employee from leaving.  Timing is, of course, everything.  Leaving it until 4pm on the employee’s last day to start exit feedback discussions has its obvious limitations.
  3. The power of word of mouth
    Leaving aside career breaks, career changes and retirement, the chances are that your leavers will be moving on to roles in which they will be operating in the same small world as you.  They’ll possibly be working for competitors, and they’ll almost certainly be working within the same pool of future employees, clients and business connections. The opportunity for employees to air concerns, share feedback and feel heard are all a cathartic part of the exit process.  The sense that this has been taken on board and effectively addressed is all the more gratifying.  Ultimately, even though you won’t prevent every resignation, you can make every effort to ensure that your leavers feel listened to and respected, and that your actions demonstrate a commitment to improved engagement.  This is the sentiment that you want resonating in people’s minds when they are asked to share their views on you as a previous employer.
  4. The ‘glassdoor.com effect
    It’s no longer just old-fashioned word of mouth that will define your reputation as an employer.  Social media has transformed the way people communicate and share feedback; it has become the modern day soapbox, and it can go viral in moments. It has also transformed the way in which future job candidates conduct their company research.  Your corporate website could espouse all the right messages, such as your corporate values and mission statement, company history and structure, awards and accreditations, and photographs of a happy, engaged and diverse workforce.  However, any jobseeker worth their salt will supplement this with extensive research on the ‘warts and all’ perspective of working within your organisation, whether through the likes of Twitter, or via feedback platforms such as Glassdoor.com.  For the uninitiated, that’s a website dedicated solely to the provision of feedback and commentary from employees (past and present) and candidates (successful and unsuccessful) on every aspect of their interaction with your organisation.  A TripAdvisor.com for the employment sector, if you like.  Reason alone to make sure that your ex employees have only the best things to report!

At great{with}talent we can not only help you to understand why employees resign, but also give you practical, solution focussed analysis that will help you to significantly reduce the cost of attrition and improve engagement in your organisation.  For more information visit http://www.lastopinion.com/ .


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