Dear David: 


I contacted you a couple of months ago regarding having to conduct so many interviews to hire the right person.  Thank you for your advice on being prepared for the interview because it really seems to be working.  I don’t mean to be a bother, but I have another important question.  How do I find out why I am losing my employees?  My manager keeps telling me they leave because they want to make more money but I find that hard to swallow because I pay more than my competition.  Can you offer some advice on this matter?


Dear In The Dark Owner,

Let’s start off with some facts to give you a nice frame of reference.  According to a survey conducted in the year 1999, yes I know that was a long time ago, where 2000 exit interview surveys were sent to separated employees for a large 19 store retail chain, 76% of the reasons given for leaving on the follow-up survey reflected dissatisfaction with the organization.  A more puzzling output of this survey was 95% of the reasons given on the survey were different than the reasons given at the exit interview. 

So if you apply this to your situation, the majority of people leaving your organization are not departing for more money, they are leaving because they don’t like where they work.  To add insult to injury, the reason for separation given to your manager is likely not accurate.  In fact, after doing further research I found that very seldom is the first reason people give as to why they are leaving the company is the truth.  It is most likely the second or third reason. 

If you truly want to find out what is going on I highly suggest YOU start conducting some exit interviews.  These interviews should be conducted with any future departing employee as well as any previously separated employee.  That means you would need to track down the departed and ask them why they decided to leave.  It may sound crazy, but statistics show employees, that have already separated, are very open with the reason as to the reason of departure because they don’t fear any repercussion from speaking the truth.

The reason that companies have exit interviews is to gain valuable information which can prove to be useful in all aspects of the work environment, including the work culture, day to day concerns, processes, issues around management style, workplace ethics and employee morale.

All companies should conduct exit interviews. An exit interview will give you the opportunity to get the opinions of those leaving the company in terms of how they perceive the company, and most importantly, why they decided to leave.  It is also a way to tie up loose ends and reduce any bad will that could get out to the public as most employees stay within the same field upon departure. 

Here are some things you should ask them:

  1. Overall, how did you find your experience working on this team?
  2. What did you like about it?
  3. What could have been better?
  4. What was your primary reason for leaving?
  5. What would it have taken for you to stay?
  6. Did you receive enough training and support to do your job effectively?
  7. Did you receive sufficient feedback about your performance between reviews?
  8. Did any policies or procedures (or any other obstacles) make your job more difficult?
  9. Would you consider working for this organization again in the future?
  10. What does your new position offer that your previous one doesn't?
  11. Any other comments?

So, what should be done with this information?  When you receive the feedback from these exit interviews, you will need to go through the results and determine what is within your control of changing and what is not. Ultimately you use the results that are within your control to improve the workplace. This will make things better for the new employees coming in and ensure that the same mistakes will not be made again. The results are an important retention tool; if you act upon the results. After you have implemented the changes, it would be ideal if there was a means for measuring the impact of the changes on the team. As an example a team survey or more neutral interviews with current employees six to 12 months after the changes are implemented would be a good thing to conduct. 

Understandably, these interviews can be time consuming and a bit uncomfortable but the output you get from the effort is well worth it.  Make sure you remember to ask the questions above and dig deep into their responses to find out the REAL reason/s as to why they thought the other side of the fence had greener grass. 

At that end of the day, you owe it to the company and all of your current and future employees to provide the best work environment possible.  Happy employees = happy customers.  Happy customers = happy owners.   If you are not living up to that standard of excellence who better to tell you that is not happening than those who left?  And who better to hear that than you?