When staff leave, it pays to ask why

By Raewyn Court

Bosses should take note of reason for employee's quitting - and then act on it.

A third of staff who quit do so because they're bored, the survey found.
A third of staff who quit do so because they're bored, the survey found.

Two years into your role as divisional manager, the new systems you've implemented are well established and everything is humming along nicely. Goals are being met, productivity is up, and staff are happy.

In fact, your input is barely needed now and you're starting to feel just a little bit ... bored. You hang on for another year but then you join the one-third of New Zealand professionals who leave a role because they no longer feel challenged.

Specialist recruitment consultancy Robert Walters surveyed more than 300 hiring managers and 700 professionals across Australia and New Zealand to gain insights on why staff leave an organisation and how the exit process can be improved.

The results show that with the 33 per cent who no longer feel challenged, a further 27 per cent of professionals leave their jobs because of problems with colleagues or the company culture, and others leave because of limited growth opportunities within the company, or because they feel undervalued or underpaid.

James Nicholson, managing director of Robert Walters in Australia and New Zealand, says the ability to retain top talent is vital to any employer's success, and believes many tend to ignore the opportunity exit interviews can present.

The report finds most professionals give honest and constructive feedback in their exit interview, but a quarter of employers file this away without acting on it. Nicholson says collecting feedback is a good way to gain insights into an organisation and if used wisely, provides an opportunity to build a better workplace through making changes that could improve the employer brand, attraction strategies or staff retention.

"The insights gleaned from former staff can shed light on all aspects of the working environment, from the culture, systems and day-to-day processes, to problems with the company's management style and underlying factors contributing to low retention rates," Nicholson says. If managed carefully, the exit interview can also be a way for staff to leave on a positive note or give bosses the chance to make a counter-offer.

As half of employees who are unhappy in their role say they would talk to their manager first before "jumping ship", employers often have the opportunity to take steps to ensure staff remain engaged and motivated, says Sean Brunner, director of Robert Walters in Wellington.

"These include setting KPIs [key performance indicators] and achievable targets, discussing opportunities for career progression in the company, and providing ways for staff to upskill by funding short courses.

"It's important to promote open communication in order to monitor staff satisfaction and tackle such issues before employees start their search elsewhere," he says.

Over a quarter of employees leave because of problems with colleagues or the company culture, and the survey found most bosses can tell when someone is unhappy through signs such as lateness, more sick days and negativity over work or colleagues.

Nicholson believes it is important to address any unhappiness as quickly as possible, not just for the worker concerned, but also to avoid decreased productivity and negativity from affecting other employees.

He says it's advisable for managers to get help from the HR department to set up a meeting and find out the root cause of a worker's unhappiness.

"Taking this initiative may change an employee's mind about leaving and therefore save the costs of staff turnover, or give you more time to consider the current market and your recruitment strategy before the formal resignation."

Nicholson advises that to improve staff retention rates and hold on to star employees, hiring managers should present their employees with both challenging work and a very clear path to progression.

"Attention should be paid to acknowledging employees for the hard work they do and rewarding them with non-monetary benefits such as regular feedback and recognition."

Past research from Robert Walters has found that education and training are highly prized career progression initiatives, and benefit both the individual and the company when a course is selected that offers something new and is relevant to the employee's role.

Robert Walters also suggests that for staff who have performed well but are already at the top of their particular division's ladder, employers should consider moving them to an international office or seconding them to another part of the business.

- NZ Herald

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