In my company we conduct a fair number of exit interviews.
This provides us the opportunity of talking with people who have recently quit their jobs and asking why they have chosen to do so.
Naturally, the reasons given are both many and varied although generally speaking, they can all fit into one of two categories.
The first category, a very tiny one, would be those whose reasons for quitting are based on compensation.
While it is probably true that we all want more money – no-one, during an exit interview, has ever shared with us that their reason for leaving was because they were underworked, overpaid and they weren’t going to take it anymore – very rarely (< 2%) is money cited as a reason primary for quitting.
The second category is one that I would call “Other.”
This Other category is the one in which we would place the multitude of reasons people provide to us for pursuing employment elsewhere. And the reasons given under this category can generally, for the most part, fall under a subcategory of their perceptions of how they have been treated by the organization.
It is extremely interesting to talk with these folks or read through the transcripts of their interviews and it is not difficult to see certain patterns emerge.
Several years ago I had an epiphany. While reading through a batch of interviews I was struck by a sudden realization. So powerful was this moment that I randomly selected some 100 interview transcripts and searched through them looking to validate this new awareness.
This is what I found. In not one single instance did a person tell us that the reason for quitting their job had anything to do with the job itself. In other words, the work– the function that they were hired to perform – did not factor in as the reason given for their resignation in one single occurrence. When they quit their jobs, they didn’t quit their jobs, they quit being a part of the organization.
The cost to organizations to replace departed employees is extremely high. When one factors in the time and resources spent on searching for and recruiting their replacement, training them to a level of proficiency, and having them able to perform at the same, or higher level as the person they have replaced, can be extremely high.
I have read research suggesting that the cost of replacing people at certain levels can exceed two and even three times their annual income.
So it seems that if people are not quitting their jobs because they are not earning enough money and not quitting their jobs because they don’t want to do the work, then their primary reasons for quitting their jobs, while varied, fall into the category of “Other”. “Other,” as mentioned earlier, is the category in which we place their perceptions – real or imagined – of how they have been treated by the organization, and it seems to me that organizations would be well served by directing appropriate resources to better understanding, and addressing, why all these “Other” reasons are causing their folks to seek employment elsewhere.
In my opinion, when organizations find themselves losing good people for bad reasons it can often be attributed to the methods they use to promote folks to supervisory positions.
This is, by no means, the only reason, but it is a significant one.
As a generalization, many organizations promote people based on the skills they have demonstrated in the jobs FROM they are being promoted without much demonstration of the skills required in the jobs TO which they are being promoted.
And it does not follow that a skilled and talented accountant/engineer/salesperson/machinist/doctor/cashier/chef/cop/driver etc. will be any good at managing people.
The domino effect of placing the wrong person in a management or supervisory position can prove to be catastrophic.
And the damage to morale, and therefore productivity, is often made worse by some people who leave the company in spirit but stay on in body.
We coined a phrase several years ago called “The Maximum/Minimum Rule.”
The rule states that the Maximum output delivered by the employee to the organization will be the Minimum required to prevent reprimand, penalty or termination.
In other words the most a disgruntled will deliver to the organization by way of performance and productivity is the least amount necessary to avoid drawing negative attention to him/herself.
And they frequently spend their time “recruiting” co-workers to their way of thinking.
Over the years I have personally conducted, and read through the transcripts of thousands of exit interviews. In my humble opinion I have concluded that the role of the front line supervisor in any organization is perhaps the single most important job in the entire company.
This is the person whose responsibilities include ensuring that the front-line folks – those who directly interact with the customer and deliver the goods and services – do so willingly and to the best of their ability.
All the while, the supervisor serves as the distributor and disseminator of all commands and information from those above him or her.
Yet it never fails to amaze me how few organizations place provide these folks with the training and skill sets that are so crucial to their success in these supervisory roles.
It seems to me that senior management fails to understand how vital these roles are to the success of their organizations.
I accept that the information we gather during these exit interview is unverified and that no steps were taken to determine veracity, however the patterns are so clear and surprisingly, don’t seem to change.
I think we should start a company to provide high quality training for front-line manager and supervisors.
Anyone interested in joining me?
Till we read again.
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