Alternate exit interview processes may prove more effective
Motivations of peers, others mirror separating staff, research shows
Want to know the real reasons why employees leave your organization? Ask the peers they leave behind.
Employees in similar positions — especially those who once considered resigning and changed their minds — share nearly identical motivations as separating staff, according to researchers at PDRI, a human capital consulting company in Tampa, Fla., and the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences.
In a nine-point scale ranging from “extremely important reason to leave” to “extremely important reason to stay,” 169 exiting junior Army officers and 485 peers closely ordered and ranked 94 items involving job assignments, promotion opportunities, pay and benefits, training, work-family balance and inequitable treatment issues.
Moreover, surveys of 68 supervisors and others who worked closely with exiting personnel showed similar convergence patterns.
“The study suggests such proxy surveys offer a cost-effective, timely solution for organizations to consider when managing employee retention,” said Elizabeth Lentz, a senior research scientist with PDRI.
Studying Army personnel afforded an opportunity to test numerous employees over a short time, so that it minimized the effects of changes in organizational policies or economic conditions, Lentz said. But the flaws in conventional exit processes, and need for alternate methods, apply to civilian organizations too, she said.
“Exiting employees generally are less accessible and are less motivated to clearly identify reasons for leaving,” Lentz said. Separating workers, who may be concerned about burning bridges or harming remaining colleagues, she said, often give responses they believe administrators want, such as “I received a better job offer” versus “I was unable to cope with the pressure.”
Conversely, proxies are accessible and may not be as reluctant to respond to sensitive questions, she said.
Oklahoma companies are embracing different methods to gather accurate feedback from exiting employees.
To gain more insight into its turnover in field sales, American Fidelity Assurance Company soon plans to contract a third-party company to conduct phone interviews with resigning reps after voluntary terminations, a company spokeswoman said. Currently, 10 percent or fewer sales reps participate in its exit process, she said.
Oklahoma City-based Accord Human Resources, which provides outsourced HR services to more than 700 clients nationwide, combines an in-person interview with a written questionnaire provided ahead of time, said Marilyn Conyer, vice president of operations. Recommended questions include: What worked really well in your department? What would you improve? What did you learn from your manager? If your were chief executive of this company, what would you change?
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