Creating Value Out of Employee Exit Data

Employee Engagement Strategy

Does your employee exit management process add real value to your business?  Does it deliver insights that translate into actions that really count?  A process that adds real value needs to be insightful, solution led and action oriented.  Here’s how …

Ask most business leaders and HR professionals whether their organisation has a process around employee exit, and the answer will probably be a very confident ‘yes’.  Employee exit questionnaire? Retrieval of company documents and equipment? A whip round for the leaving gift? Leaving drinks, complete with suitably light hearted/ emotional / toe curling leaving speech? You may have ticks in all those boxes, but the bad news is that this only gets you out of the starter blocks.  A process that adds real value needs to be insightful, solution led and action oriented.

Valuable insight, or just lots of data?

So, a rather more searching question is whether you have an exit management process that adds significant value to your business.  Whether it gives you, as an employer, telling insight into why your people leave.  And to answer that question, it is necessary to look not only into what the process looks like, but also what is done with the resulting information.  And whilst many organisations jump through all the right sorts of hoops on data collection, it is the latter part of the exercise where, all too commonly, the process grinds to a rapid (and, to be frank, all rather pointless) halt.

‘I can’t wait to get to work and spend the morning chasing up leavers for exit feedback responses’.  Said no employer or HR professional, ever.  If this rings even vaguely true, then we’re going to make the assumption that it isn’t done for the love of the task, but for the desire for information and the genuine intention to deliver positive change as a result (improved retention, primarily).  Yet, to deliver positive change you need insight.  And to get to that insight, one has to do something constructive with the data.   

Yet, for many organisations there are a multitude of extremely understandable reasons why this either never happens, or happens about as reliably as the average British heatwave.  It’s time consuming enough gathering the data in the first place, and with a million and one things besides leavers to worry about, there is precious little time to sit down and scratch chins over the detail. Besides, you’re probably far too busy recruiting and training up replacements.

The unsustainable cost of labour turnover.

But here’s why thorough analysis of leaver data is an absolute must.  Staff turnover costs money.  So does recruitment. There’s no genius in that revelation.  But when you actually stop to work out the sums, the figures can be quite alarming (pay a quick visit to our staff turnover cost calculator page, and see for yourself) Sure, leavers can be replaced, and the loss of Brenda from Accounts won’t bring the business crashing down.  But the bigger picture of your employee exit is what really matters, and all the data in the world won’t tell you what that picture looks like unless you do something with it.  And the point is that, whilst you can’t completely eliminate the cost of labour turnover (and nor would you want to, necessarily; a degree of employee churn is, after all, healthy for a business), you can significantly reduce it.

The cost of employee churn is a peculiar thing.  It doesn’t show up in plain sight on the balance sheet.  Some of the evidence is visible (recruitment agency fees, for example), but it doesn’t occupy a line entry all of its own, complete with (alarm) bells and whistles.  The danger, therefore, is that it is afforded less importance. The same would not be true of any other area of avoidable cost with a more immediately visible impact on the business.  For example, it wouldn’t take long to persuade the Grands Fromages in the boardroom to sign off a cap ex spend on upgrading a fleet of company vehicles which cost a fortune to maintain and proved unreliable.

Arresting and reversing the turnover problem.

So exactly how do you slow down the revolving door phenomenon?  For exit data to add value, there are a few essential ingredients, aside from the data itself:

  • Clarity of purpose

Knowing where you want to be as an organisation is important, but that will have far more impact if you have clarity on where you have come from at the start of the process.  So, measuring attrition rates now, and setting a goal for a defined timeframe will really help to demonstrate whether your process is adding value, or whether it needs fine tuning. And the chances are, if you are make strides in reducing attrition, your business will also start to reap other benefits (reduced recruitment costs, increased employee engagement, not to mention the knock on effect on other measures of productivity and output).   So ideally, you should be setting some goals for how that reduction in attrition will ripple out to other business metrics.  And if the walls seem high, consider breaking the goals down into manageable and achievable chunks (identify your highest turnover function and zone in on that, or work on reducing attrition of your most regretted leaver categories).

  • Fortitude

Breaking up is never easy! And whilst not everyone leaves for negative reasons, the chances are you will hear a few home truths about the employee experience, some of which may smart a bit. Granted, some of these will be one-offs, but equally you may start to see some trends emerge.  What is critical is how you choose to react to that feedback, and whether you are prepared to take it on the chin and take steps to address any key issues that crop up as regular triggers for resignations.  One thing’s for sure, neither the ostrich approach, nor snorts of derision will make the recurrent problems go away.  They’re there, they’re real, and they need to be responded to.

  • Big Answers

Big data is all well and good, but (and not wishing to bang the drum too much) it means nothing on its own.  It is imperative that you turn it into ‘big answers’. In other words, analyse the data, draw conclusions, and then identify some pragmatic steps for change.  But one word of caution before you dive in.   Make sure you’ve drawn the right conclusions; those based on evidence and the right kind of research, rather than on assumption and all the wrong questions.  If your exit questionnaire asks everyone their viewpoint on twenty different aspects of their employee experience, you need to be confident you asked the right questions, and are clear about which (if any) of them actually made the difference between people staying with the company or resigning.  Asking everyone for their viewpoint on the quality of food in the staff canteen will probably give rise to some interesting feedback, but if everyone is leaving because of a lack of challenge in their work, no amount of subsidised salmon en croute would have made them stay.

  • Commitment and ownership

Defining ownership for reducing labour turnover is an essential element to its success.  All too often, turnover is seen as ‘HR’s problem’ or a ‘management style’ issue.  The truth is that HR, line management and leadership teams play as critical a part as each other in ensuring that every aspect of employee engagement is addressed, not just at the new recruit stage, but right through to the point of exit.  There can be no better way to focus the mind on this mutual goal than to make reduction in labour turnover a KPI for all involved in the employee management process.


Why not outsource it the affordable way?

Now for the good news. None of this has to be time consuming.  It doesn’t even have to be expensive.  It doesn’t have to mean chasing down disillusioned, disorganised or disengaged leavers for completed questionnaires.  And best of all, it doesn’t have to involve hours of tedious data entry and report writing.  At great{with}talent, we’ve got it covered so that you can get on with the business of running your business, while we manage your exit data collection, analysis and reporting.

For as little as £6 per head, our LastOpinion exit resource will do all the hard work for you.  Simply provide us with the names of your leavers and we will send out customised and branded questionnaires on your behalf.  And since we know that not everyone works at a desk, and the ‘admin’ of life often has to happen on the fly, we’ve developed a new and unique mobile enabled version of our exit questionnaire.  Your leavers can complete and upload their data ‘on the move’ in just 5 minutes. Our conversion rates are significantly higher than most in-house processes, but when a little chase up is needed, we’ve got that covered too.  And since you only pay per completed questionnaire, there’s no risk of wasted budget.

As for the big answers, our reporting system produces expert analysis of the data, resulting in reports that tell you exactly what you need to know.  Namely, why people are leaving, and exactly what action you can take as a business to reverse the problem.

To understand not only why employees resign, but how you can tackle the problem, visit for a free trial and more information on our products.

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