“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do that.”
Client Charles 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 then 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 Joel Answers: Charlie, I’m pleased that you have several things right. You are aware of the high cost of replacing good workers. Not just the cost of hiring and training, but also the cost of lost productivity while the new employees learn.
And you are looking for a real solution to the problem of employee retention. It’s often hard for employees to feel free to open up about a problem. Here are some reasons workers might not be free to share concerns or problems with the company.
The company culture does not encourage free speaking. It might be that any criticism of the company is met with repression.
- The boss may not really 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 or other leaders may be caustic and unhealthy for workers and it’s easier to leave than try to change the system.
Charles, since you have not had success with asking your employees for honest feedback, try asking those that are leaving. Many companies have success with a survey about employee retention after their resignation.
Here are some ways to do that.
1. Create a written survey. First, you want to set a program in place. You can’t just say, “Jack, on your way out the door, do you want to tell me why you’re going?” Talk to HR. Make a list of 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 (or more) things would you recommend to create happier employees?
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 retention survey before meeting with him.
And I suggest reviewing it and having a little time between seeing the survey and talking to the employee. Criticism is always tough to take. Your initial reaction will likely be defensive. This is not productive.
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 Jack 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 Jack says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. But if several of your departing employees mention a problem, you have some answers to your retention problem.
Charles, 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.
Are you struggling with employee retention? Executive coaching can change organizational dynamics and make great changes in productivity. Contact Joel to see if coaching might be an answer to your team’s attrition.
Talkback: Have you ever used a survey for employees after their resignation? How has it helped you to retain your workers?
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