Exit Strategy: How Companies Can Fight Back Against Increasing Attrition
Whether you know it or not, more than half of your workforce is actively looking for another job or at least keeping an eye out for new opportunities.
Many organizations are responding by shifting recruitment and retention efforts into overdrive — often with little or no real strategy. Today, even the most well-informed employers are at a loss to explain why so many employees are ready to leave. What we do know is that these losses can be costly: Replacing a highly trained employee can cost an organization more than double that person’s annual salary.
For all the advances made in recruiting technology and best practices, some processes have stayed alarmingly stagnant. Most problematically, little innovation has occurred with respect to retention strategies. Companies that want to get ahead of what is quickly becoming a retention crisis need to think differently — and it all starts with abandoning the traditional exit interview.
Shed Old Habits and Become an Employer of Choice
Employees are voting with their feet when they leave, but company leaders and HR pros are often puzzled as to what those votes really mean. The traditional sit-down exit interview no longer cuts it when it comes to spotting turnover patterns or identifying factors that cause employee departures.
Instead, leaders need to be strategic about how they are evaluating and getting feedback from workers throughout the entire employee life cycle. In doing so, companies can set themselves up to be employers of choice: organizations that adapt to the needs of their workers in order to keep them happier and with the company longer.
Leaders of companies struggling with retention should step back and examine their strategies for retention, employee evaluation, and employee interaction. As they do so, they should keep the following considerations in mind:
1. Engage Employees During Every Stage of the Employee Life Cycle
Leaders and HR professionals who find themselves baffled by retention woes are often asking the right questions at the wrong time. An exit interview is just that: a chance for an employee to sound off on their way out. However, the company should be concerned with an employee’s daily struggles, frustrations, and opinions before the employee is walking out the door.
Companies need to invest in systems and processes that allow them to get critical employee feedback from the very first day a hire is made. Moreover, companies must also dedicate resources toward turning this feedback into actionable organizational changes.
Have three people left the accounting department in the span of a month? Maybe the reason for these departures is a bad manager, antiquated software, or flawed processes. Whatever the case, company leaders will never be able to solve these issues if they only hear about them from employees with one foot out the door. You can’t drive a car forward by keeping your eyes on the rear-view mirror. Similarly, you can formulate a new retention strategy for the future by relying on historical data. What companies need is prevention, not reaction.
2. Data Is Your New Best Friend
As AI and automation become more universally adopted, recruiters will be unencumbered by the administrative duties that used to impede their ability to act as talent advisors. Talent acquisition teams now have access to both predictive data about candidates and information regarding the performance of existing employees. These data sets can and should be used to spot patterns and prevent attrition before it happens. Similarly, recruiters can also use this data to identify the hallmarks of high-performers and gain insight into what it takes to nurture top employees and keep them engaged.
3. Think Critically About Vacancies
Not all attrition is equal. Some attrition is normal and is actually healthy for an organization. The real problem is when attrition occurs within your group of highly-valued employees — especially when it occurs at a rapid clip.
Recruiters are constantly under pressure from leaders to fully staff up. As a result, they are often hiring for multiple skilled positions at one time. It is critical that recruiters start to adopt a total talent acquisition approach to filling vacancies. To do this, recruitment teams need to go back to the data and consider whether it’s best to buy, borrow, or build to fill a role.
Buying is the most familiar approach, with recruiters casting their nets out into the market of eager job seekers. Those playing the talent advisor role understand that borrowing — or hiring a combination of gig workers, consultants, and contractors — can sometimes be a better and cheaper option. Additionally, building — or cultivating talent within the organization through new training and tools — can be a smarter, more effective way to fill vacancies in certain situations.
4. Fill the Post-Hire Void and Keep Recruiters in the Loop About Performance
Too often, recruiters never get a single insight into how an employee they’ve brought in performs once they’ve been hired. This is a missed opportunity. When recruiters are kept updated about how their hires are performing, they gain valuable insights that can inform future recruitment decisions.
When hiring happens in a vacuum, there is a far greater chance of turnover. Recruiters should have the same access to employee performance data as HR. If the technology does not yet exist to allow for this, recruiters should make a case to leadership for acquiring it.
Change can be difficult for organizations, especially when that change means losing familiar faces and valuable talent. However, companies willing to make the right changes don’t find the retention challenge nearly as difficult. Realizing half of your workforce is looking for employment elsewhere can be a sobering fact, but companies that actively work to become employers of choice can gain a strategic advantage over those competitors still scrambling to decode the causes of the retention crisis.
David Bernstein is the head of partnerships for AllyO.