I have spoken to a handful of bright young people in the last month, all exiting jobs soon after starting them. A few things struck me when talking to each of these people:

  • The time, cost and effort which must have gone into recruiting them.
  • In each case, how limited the attention paid to how they had settled in and any frustrations they had in their new roles was in the initial period after they started.
  • How futile it seemed giving these people exit interviews face to face when each was at the time of the exit interview aware that they may still need a reference and that anything they said could be attributed.
  • How naïve it is, when people who are leaving may be great contacts for the future, to prohibit their managers from giving references and only agree to give a pro forma reference from HR.

It can be dangerous to draw too many conclusions from a small sample and anecdotal evidence. However, when people are willing to chat openly it can be incredibly informative too.
So here are a few takeaways I got from my discussions:

  • Checking new staff have settled into your organisation, and are not frustrated, in the months after they arrive should be the norm not the exception. If the job is not what people expected, training is not what people hoped, at least if you are aware of this you can see whether there are things you could or should be doing to enhance it. The first six months in a job is a great time to catch people – before they get stuck in a rut or disillusioned if things aren’t right.
  • If you have not got ways for staff to provide feedback on a regular basis in a trusted way, you may well be missing some great opportunities to learn and reduce the number of exit interviews you are doing.
  • If it does come down to an exit, it’s a great opportunity to learn from people. It may well be too late to change the minds of the people concerned, but it does not stop you learning for the future. Do, however, collect views of those exiting in a way where they can be candid with you.
  • If people are leaving remember today’s leaver may be tomorrow’s customer, lead or partner. Make the process as painless as possible.

With a bit of careful thought and planning, most organisations can make meaningful reductions in the numbers of staff leaving. For those who do leave they can learn more and keep relationships intact for the future. Without thought and planning you could be missing great opportunities.
Picture by Jacob Axford (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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