Staff Turnover: Want to Know The Secret To Better Retention?
Just Ask Your Staff!

Paul Quinn discusses the growing trend within HR functions towards setting up continuous web-based staff feedback loops


Renowned HR expert Dr. John Sullivan once wrote:

Asking employees at time of termination “why are you leaving” is like asking your spouse “how to improve the marriage” on the day before the divorce is final! By that time it’s too late to do much anyway.

Although staff retention rates are a major concern amongst many of today’s HR leaders, there are some who still find the real causes of high staff attrition rates harder to pin point than the culprit in a classic Agatha Christie murder mystery.

A simple example stems from the Saratoga Institute. Their 2003 survey revealed that 89% of managers believe employees leave for more money. But, in fact, the survey found that 88% of employees leave for reasons other than money. Indeed a study by Mercer Human Resource Consulting conducted in Australia in 2003 revealed that the most important attributes that Australian employees value about their job were:

1. The existence of opportunities for advancement,
2. Training, and
3. A clear career path.

Today, the invent of cost effective online survey technology is helping transform the traditional mindset of HR practitioners regarding the challenges around collecting staff feedback. The fact is that understanding the real reasons behind staff satisfaction and retention doesn’t have to be a painful, expensive, once-a-year exercise. As such, in recent years there has been a move by HR towards implementing a more continuous staff feedback loop.

Asking your staff what they think is a great place to start.

Generally speaking, people actually enjoy being asked for their opinion – and your staff members are no different. Why risk staying in the dark regarding the main reasons for staff attrition at your organisation when there are many easy ways to find this information out? One increasingly popular approach is to run a cluster of specific online staff surveys focused on a specific theme. Three such examples, all with ties to the ‘staff retention’ theme are summarised below:

1. New Starter Feedback Surveytypically sent within the first 6 weeks of the new employee commencing, a new starter survey is a great way to gain an accurate gauge on the effectiveness of your recruitment and staff induction program. Even at this early stage the survey can also be an accurate pointer towards that employee’s level of engagement. Furthermore, a new starter survey is increasingly seen by employers as an opportunity to solicit referrals from the new hire regarding the names of the top performers within the company they have just departed.

2. ‘Stay’ Survey – also known as a ‘Pre-exit Interview’, the Stay Survey is typically sent to ALL top performers, or a random snapshot of employees, every six months. The survey seeks to understand what top performers like / dislike about their role, what the company can do to help improve their enjoyment / motivation / productivity at work, and what factors (if any) would be most likely to cause them to leave the organisation. This provides the organisation with a golden opportunity to address problem issues well before a star performer’s decision to look elsewhere has been made.

3. Exit Interview Survey – a growing number of companies are beginning to move their exit interview process online to capture the benefits of instant reporting of results, process centralisation and consistency, and the minimisation of interviewer bias. Furthermore, utilising an online survey format for exit interview surveys can often yield good response rates and result in honest and well considered feedback.

The causes of staff attrition don’t have to remain a mystery. By taking the time to ask your staff what they really think, the implementation of a continuous feedback loop can deliver actionable insight in the fight against staff attrition.


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