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Uncovering the Truth About Employee Turnover

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As economic conditions gave employee power in the marketplace, business leaders and HR professionals are increasingly challenged to attract and retain skilled workers to support their organizations' growth. This power has led to an increasing number of unfilled jobs, escalating numbers of involuntary quits and rising costs of turnover.

With employees leaving their jobs at record levels, turnover is an increasingly expensive problem. As the problem has grown, researchers, thought leaders and journalists have published many theories about what drives turnover to provide guidance on how to stop it. The problem is that most of these studies do not identify the real reasons why people are leaving and what organizations can do about it. 

The purpose of this annual study - the only one of its kind -  is to document the root causes of turnover. We directly ask employees why they left their jobs and identify the most important reason why they left their jobs, in a way that brings out the truth.

Obtaining the Truth from Exit Interviews

Exit Interviews, when accurately conducted, uncover the root causes of turnover and provide details to guide specific interventions. There are several key steps that must be followed in exit interviews to uncover the truth about why employees leave. 

Common mistakes that organizations make with exit interview practices:

  • Mistake #1: Act on unreliable data. It's a fact that up to 63% of answers change when a third party asks about reasons for leaving after the employee has departed (Campion, 1991: Hinrichs, 1975). 
  • Mistake #2: Implement simple quantitative surveys. It's necessary to use a mixed-methods approach and ask "Why" in an open-ended, qualitative manner, to capture all reasons employees leave, and to probe for more information. This increases the scope of what can be learned (Creswell & Creswell, 2017).
  • Mistake #3: Rely on external benchmarks and surveys. The Work Institute's 2017 Retention Report revealed that nearly every organization is unique in the reasons employees leave, which underscores the importance of asking employees in your organization in a way that will bring out the truth (Sears, et al., 2017).

Using a Proven Methodology

Over the past 17 years, and having conducting over half a million interviews, we have implemented a methodology to ask and capture the most important reasons employees leave their jobs. Based upon 2017 data from over 34,000 exit interveiws, a classification system resulted in 50 reasons employees quit their jobs and 10 categories of reasons that accounted for more than 97% of all reasons employees quit. In order to understand and categorize reasons, researchers conduct exit interviews using a mixed-methodology approach, ask participants why they left their jobs, then probe to identify the single most important reason they left their jobs. These reasons are then coded to allow us to analyze insights accurately.

To review the 2018 Retention Report: Truth & Trends in Turnover, follow the link HERE.

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