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I think we all have the tendency to minimize the reasons why people leave rather than solving the problem or identifying the root cause. We just don’t really want to think about it. We focus on the fact that there will always be turnover. We attribute the person’s move to money which is not always the case. I am sure that you have heard the saying “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.” We also tend to say that some turnover is good or healthy. Consider the reasons you have heard lately for employees leaving your organization. Was it for more money? Was there a bad boss involved? Did they mention the promise of a flexible schedule or better work-life balance?

Blogger Sharlyn Lauby at her site tells us that in 2018 the reasons why people are leaving are quite clear-cut:

24 percent: better comp and benefits

20 percent: flexible work schedule

20 percent: more supportive manager

21 percent: increased opportunities for advancement

3 percent: better training and development

12 percent: misc.

These numbers tell me that money can be a factor but only as much as anything else. Plus the money falls into the “better comp and benefits” bucket where benefits may be just as important as the money or vice versa. As an employer, you may or may not have some control over the benefits piece. Maybe you cannot directly control the pay or the medical insurance but do you have some say over other things. I know that one benefit my co-workers and I cherish is the dress code at our organization. We can wear jeans. This is actually a trend that is sweeping many workplaces due to the increased numbers of younger workers demanding it. Trust me; it is a benefit – at least to my group. Flexible work schedules are relatively new and if you are not there yet – you better start to work towards it. What about the comment regarding a more supportive manager. Are you a manager? Can you be more supportive? We all know that the answer to that is probably yes.

What can help – refer to the exit interview

To get your hands around some of the issues, what about making sure you have an exit interview process in place. A good exit interview can give you an expansion of the data for your analysis.

Don’t forget about the good old exit interview. If done correctly, this can give you a large amount of information.

  • Don’t use a form
  • Don’t just email a form to the person leaving
  • Do schedule, attend and follow-up in person
  • Do take your time
  • Do modify your process if needed based on the situation

Every time I do an exit interview in person, I am amazed at the information that I learn. Both good and bad. Allow one to two hours or more. I like to take the person to lunch if at all possible. I like to really take my time and give the employee their time to speak. Honestly, using this approach has changed exit interviews from being my least favorite thing to being time well spent. It also really reinforces the fact that maybe getting to know this person on the front-end would have made a difference and we would not be spending time in an exit interview. That is right – getting to know your employees and listening to their ideas can prevent turnover.

Having a general exit interview form and process that is standardized is important. Some people have no intention of really telling you why they are leaving. This may be for several reasons or maybe this person has nothing to say that is outside what you already know. You still need to ask and do your due diligence. You won’t know unless you ask. If they tell you that they have nothing to say or do not want to participate in your two-hour lunch meeting, then send them the form. They just may change their mind. You could even allow them to do your form after they have left the organization. This makes it more comfortable for some and alleviates the feeling of possibly getting in trouble or burning a bridge. Follow up with them personally and let them know that this information is important to you. Please know that the exit interview process can be handled by HR but the manager or another leader may choose to handle it themselves.

What else can help – stay interviews

Stay Interviews, what is that? Stay interviews are just what you think they are. You interview the people that are staying to find out why they are staying. Of course, you want to be a bit more methodical than that but that is the general idea. Really spend some time digging into why people are staying. Each organization has great things going on, hidden gems that you may not even know about. What are they? If you go down this path, be ready to take action in the form of recognition. You may find some that require a pat on the back or more. You probably have some wonderful, hardworking stories to uncover so prepare. This is a great tool and should be done during a time that employees can truly focus and be open to the experience.

The exit interview and the stay interview are two tools that can assist in retention and turnover analysis. Do not assume that you know why people are leaving. Do not assume that you know why people are staying. I don’t want to remind you what happens when people assume. Please gather data and let the data tell the story.

Your homework for next time:

Take a deep dive into the turnover that you have had in your organization within this first quarter if you have not already. Look at it by voluntary vs. involuntary, exempt vs. non-exempt, by supervisor, by location, by reason, etc. Look for patterns. What do you see?

If you already do this, take it to the next step. What are you doing about this? Do managers’ report out on turnover? Is there an investigation? Should there be?

Angela Holmes is a SHRM certified human resource expert, writer and public speaker with over 20 years of human resource experience.  She has hired thousands of people across many industries.  Angela graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Illinois State University.  Angela also attained a Master’s degree in Education at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Workforce Education and Development program.  Angela strives to give relatable workplace feedback using a common sense approach.  Angela is the Vice President of Human Resources at National Railway Equipment Co. (NRE) and can be reached at, follow her on Twitter at @Angela_Holmes_1 and Instagram at @aholmes91


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