OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- When F. Leigh Branham was talking with a credit union CEO, the CEO proudly told Branham he meets with every new employee shortly after they're hired.
When Branham asked what the CEO learned from those meetings, the CEO seemed puzzled. Was he supposed to learn something? He really hadn't looked at it as a two-way flow.
Branham is founder and principal of Keeping the People, Inc., a consulting firm that helps organizations analyze root causes of turnover and employee disengagement. He's also author of Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business and The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave.
Branham notes some 90% of employers conduct exit interviews. But only 30% of those interviews make it from the Human Resources files to the managers who need to see them.
Besides, those routine interviews are generally misleading. Employees will often indicate they're leaving for more pay and better opportunity. That's usually true, Branham says, but not necessarily the reason they started looking in the first place. It's probably a preventable situation. Employees don't want to burn a bridge and admit there's a problem with a manager. In most cases, there is. The actual reasons employees leave have tended to remain the same over time, Branham indicates. "If there is one thing I've learned in my business career and research [it is that] good management, a positive culture and caring leaders are far more important than pay and benefits," he says.
"There are some variations, depending mostly on age. I think we're seeing a generation of younger workers who are leaving more for reasons of work-life balance and for a lack of coaching and feedback and the kind of recognition they're used to having grown up in sort of an instant feedback environment. Their expectations span a shorter time. Maybe previous generations would have liked the same thing but they didn't really expect it because the labor market was not in their favor."
To uncover what's really going on, Branham suggests following up a month or six months later with an employee who has left. Using a third-party to contact the former employee and assure anonymity may encourage them to share information they might not have revealed to an internal company representative. The employee may even be able to input comments onto a Web site. When an employee leaves, is it usually the fault of the employee or the employer? "It's hard to say," Braham answers. "It may not have been a good fit, it may not have been a good match. Certainly the employee may have been na?ve in taking the job in the first place. They didn't really know the kind of job they were accepting. The lack of self-knowledge is a common problem and lack of effort is a common issue.
"The main thing is to understand you have lost people you would rather have kept. Where along the line could you have done something different that would have retained those employees?"
Jobs that may have been a good fit originally may change. Branham cites the example of credit unions asking people who were formerly tellers to sell products and services to members. Some employees saw it as bait-and-switch, protesting this was not the job for which they were hired.
There's also what Branham calls the "replacement mentality." That approach considers turnover simply part of the cost of doing business. Many senior managers grew up in an era when that could apply. But now there are more jobs than there are people in the job market, certainly including the financial industry.
It can be difficult for older managers to switch into an era that puts increased emphasis on human sensitivity. Those managers had no role models for that when they were starting their careers. However, there is a basic human need for validation. Generations X and Y may need it even more.
"We can't take people for granted once they're hired," Branham continues. "We have to recruit them constantly. A flow of new employees in and out costs money. Smart companies are thinking, once we get this person in, let's try to keep them.
"Hold all managers accountable for retaining people. There has to be some teeth in this." --firstname.lastname@example.org