Do you really know what the deal breakers are for your employees?  What makes them invested enough in your business to stay with you through thick and thin, or fed up enough to have their heads turned by the persuasions of a competitor employer?

When it comes to following up on the outcome of exit questionnaires and engagement surveys, there’s often a huge spectrum of issues to take into account. From concerns about a lack of development opportunity, frustrations surrounding the perceived fairness of the annual review system, and feedback on the limitations of the IT infrastructure, right down to the colour of the office carpet and the state of the communal kitchen.

Building a sustainable plan for improved employee retention relies heavily upon cutting through all this information and getting to the heart of what really matters to your people.  Because, whilst installing a brand new coffee machine in the office has its merits (plenty of them, in fact), there’s certainly no evidence to suggest that this is the golden ticket to resolving the employee exit problem.  Sure, you can fix the small things – they most certainly won’t go unappreciated.  But they’ll soon get forgotten about and become the expected norm.  And they definitely won’t be enough to stem the flow of resignation letters.  In order to achieve that, you have to pay attention to the things that matter most to your people.  And that won’t be the coffee.

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory Of Motivation.

Humans are complex creatures, and the employer / employee relationship is no less complicated as a result.  According to psychologist Frederick Herzberg, the things that motivate us at work are distinct from the things that can lead to dissatisfaction.  According to his two-factor theory of motivation (1959), there are ‘hygiene’ factors and ‘motivation’ factors at play in the workplace.  Predominately extrinsically linked, Herzberg’s hygiene factors are all things that, in absence, will result in dissatisfaction, but, when present, do not build sustained and long term motivation and commitment in their own right Things like working conditions, salary, policies and rules, and even relationships with superiors and peers. Motivation factors, by contrast, are the necessary ingredients for a happy, engaged and committed workforce. They include the work content itself, achievement, recognition, growth, promotion and responsibility. If present, they foster an intrinsic desire to excel, and, as such, they are more deep-rooted than the important, but more superficial factors at play on the hygiene side of the theory. This raises some important considerations; how much time and money should you invest in hygiene versus motivation factors, and which is more commonplace in driving resignation within your organisation? 

How It Works In Practice.

Let’s take the example of IT.  Even the most hyped up and motivated work teams don’t tend to show up in the morning full of whoops and high fives at the discovery that the office IT system is working just as it should be.  But the sight of those two words of doom (‘Network error’) for longer than it takes to nip to Starbucks has even the most even tempered and mild mannered amongst us at breaking point.  Without question, having access to the necessary tools, systems and infrastructure to do one’s job effectively and comfortably can make the difference between a good day in the office and a deeply frustrating one.   Similarly, the sense that one is receiving a fair wage in exchange for work completed is not something we beam from ear to ear about every day as we battle our way through the tiresome commute.  By contrast, the sense that we are not being fairly remunerated soon leads to feelings of resentment.  These hygiene factors, are generally quick (even if not inexpensive) to address.  They’re important, too, in order to stop the rot setting in over things that could so easily be resolved. But addressing the hygiene factors alone merely restores the status quo; whilst it ensures that your workforce won’t be dissatisfied, it by no means secures their loyalty, commitment and longer term engagement. Because, as important as the hygiene factors are (their absence can be powerful and palpable) they are short-term ‘boosts’ which neither make nor break the employee / employer bond in the long term because they hold little or no intrinsic value.

So what of the other side of Herzberg’s picture – the motivator factors.  These are the things that influence people’s sense of achievement, belonging, recognition, responsibility, progression and personal growth.  From the work itself to the way in which that work is communicated and managed, and the sense of worth, belonging and achievement this creates. They are the things that foster loyalty, and the things that people will seek out elsewhere, if necessary. By nature, therefore, every employer should seek to enquire about the motivator factors in every form of feedback audit they conduct, whether engagement surveys with existing staff, or exit questionnaires with leavers.

Find Out What Really Drives Resignation In Your Organisation.

So, what can Herzberg teach us about how we manage our exit feedback process?

  • Firstly, make sure you ask the right questions of your leavers.
  • Secondly, probe beyond the broad and generic.
  • Thirdly, turn the data you gather into a valuable tool for change.

1) The right questions

There’s a big difference between finding out what people found frustrating about their experience of working with you, and finding out what led to their decision to leave.  Both will tell a story, and both will doubtless result in some well received changes, but only the latter will really start to inform an effective retention strategy.

2) Probe the answers

Beyond the broad and generic ‘off the cuff’ answers, allow your leavers the scope to elaborate upon their feedback. After all, does the standard ‘career progression’ catch-all response on your multiple choice exit questionnaire actually give you anything constructive and actionable by way of data?

3) Turn data into answers and actions

Cut through the hyperbole and zone in on the areas where change will make a difference to whether people stay or leave.  Losing great people is never a good thing.  But if there is one silver lining to the cloud, it is the ‘no holds barred’ insight they can give you as to what you’re not doing so well at, and how you can fix it. That way, when it comes to putting things right, you’ll know you’re tackling the problems that really need fixing, instead of just the ones that are quickest and easiest to resolve, or that people hop onto the bandwagon and shout loudest about.

Our Solution In Your Hands. 

At great{with}talent, our LastOpinion assessment tool offers solutions at all these levels. Account set up is quick and easy.  Input the names of your leavers and we will do the rest, from sending out and chasing leaver questionnaires, to analysing and reporting the results.  Our questionnaires are expertly designed to ask the right questions in the right way, leading to real and valuable insight into what triggers turnover.  Our reports will give you an exact and honest appraisal of why people are leaving, alongside the actions that you can take to prevent further loss. Available in desktop or mobile compatible format, fully brandable and customisable, LastOpinion provides an exit data collection tool that delivers significant return on investment.

Reducing employee turnover isn’t ever a quick fix. It’s a journey which will happily involve a few quick wins along the way (so, by all means, splash out on that new office coffee machine!), but which will need to include a balance of focus on positively reinforcing the more complex motivation factors that help underpin a thriving and long term relationship between employer and employee, and addressing the hygiene factors which make for a comfortable and effective workplace environment. So, if your employee exit door is revolving a bit too fast for your liking, maybe it is time to capture some critical insight from your leavers before they ride off into the sunset to start a beautiful relationship with a new employer.


For more information on LastOpinion, or our new mobile enabled version, LastOpinion+, visit our website www.lastopinion.com