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Do You Know Why You’re Losing Top Talent?

March 6th, 2015

After a few years of management experience, you’ve probably had at least one encounter with a common and upsetting scenario: You hire a candidate you love. You bring her onboard with a warm welcome. You invest in an expensive period of training and acclimation. And just as your (still much beloved) new employee is learning the ropes and shifting from a liability to an asset, she walks into your office to give notice. According to the math, you just paid for her education, absorbed the cost of her expensive newbie mistakes, and then handed your newly seasoned, confident, talented employee over to your competitors.

So what can you do to prevent this from happening in the future? Here are a few exit interview strategies that can better help you understand why skilled, valuable employees might decide to leave your company.

First, make sure you offer them.

If you don’t provide exit interviews to your departing candidates at all, that’s your biggest mistake. Start putting together a written survey or a series of scripted verbal questions that can be posed to your departing employee by an HR manager.

Keep your interview questions meaningful.

In most cases, departing employees have nothing to lose or gain as they complete your survey, so they simply follow the dictates of basic professionalism and politeness. They indicate that they enjoyed working here, but for reasons beyond your control, they decided to take their careers in a new direction.  But a bland, polite answer like that won’t really help you. So keep your questions pointed. For example, instead of asking: “Were you satisfied with your experience here?”, try: “Please name one thing we could have done to make your tenure more satisfactory or fulfilling.”

Use a ranking system.

Ask your employee to make a series of value judgments on a 1 to 5 scale. For example: “I believe that my manager cared about my career growth and personal well-being, one meaning no, and five meaning yes, very much.” Again, keep your questions pointed, or your departing employees will simply give the highest marks for every answer.

Record the results and use this data to make future decisions.

No survey has value or meaning unless the results are recorded and cross references against the results of other surveys during different years and across multiple managers and departments.  Don’t just collect this data: actually use it. Apply your findings to your retention strategy and your future hiring decisions. Look for patterns that might help you identify stepping stone candidates or inspire loyalty in those who may be tempted to jump ship.

For more on how to attract and identify talented candidates and then hold onto them once they step on board, reach out to the staffing and hiring consultants at Merritt.

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