The key to employee engagement does not lie in the exit interviewâbut in continuous feedback throughout the employee lifecycle.
By Shalini Duggal
At a basic level, employees quit when they lose faithÂ in the possibility of having their needs met by theirÂ employer.
Sounds simple. But whatâs complicated is that eachÂ individual has unique needsâand they can easilyÂ change. One employee might prioritize higher pay,Â while another wants a better relationship with theirÂ boss. One may need to relocate, while another needsÂ faster career advancement. Itâs up to the employer toÂ assess whether fulfilling those needs is possible beforeÂ the employee leaves the company.
Some turnover is unavoidable, but employers canÂ alleviate some of the âbleedâ if they understand oneÂ thing: Exit interviews are a last resort. Employers mayÂ not be able to deliver on all employee needs, but theyÂ should at least know what those needs are.Â In other words, if employers are asking for feedbackÂ when employees already have a foot out the door, itâsÂ too late.
Rise of the Employee Voice
Exit interview data can only be used to make reactiveÂ changes after an employee leaves the organization.Â Collecting feedback and taking action on problemsÂ affecting the employee experience in the moment is farÂ more effectiveâbut something one in five employeesÂ say their company is âhorribleâ at, according toÂ Achieversâ 2019 Workforce Complacency Report.
ManagersÂ and HRÂ leaders shouldÂ rarely be surprisedÂ by the feedback theyÂ receive in exit interviews.Â These employee-employerÂ conversations should be goingÂ on regularly. It is the role ofÂ regular feedback cycles, not exitÂ interviews, to surface those issues.Â Gallup agrees: âGood leaders listenÂ before they act. And the best leadersÂ prioritize listening to their best people.â
Consider these statistics:
- Salesforce Research reveals that an employee whoÂ feels heard is 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered toÂ perform their best.
- Managers who receive feedback on their strengthsÂ showed 9 percent greater profitability, according toÂ Achievers.
- An Achievers study shows that 68 percent ofÂ employees who receive regular feedback feel fulfilled inÂ their jobs.
- Gallup reports that a mere three in 10 U.S. employeesÂ strongly agree that their opinions count in theÂ workplace.
The Value of Frequent Feedback
Here are some more reasons why continuous feedback isÂ crucial.
1. EmployeeÂ expectations haveÂ changed. In todayâs world,Â real-time everything is the norm.Â Communications with loved ones,Â up-to-date news, and even new jobÂ opportunities are all simply one click away.Â So when it comes to employee feedback, employeesÂ expect to be able to give and receive feedbackÂ immediately, not at the end of the quarter or the endÂ of the year. Worse, if employers are waiting until theÂ end of an employeeâs tenure to solicit feedback, itâsÂ no wonder that Achievers finds that 31.6 percent ofÂ employees mark themselves as being âopen to newÂ opportunitiesâ despite average engagement. Itâs time toÂ move ahead with the times.
2. Employee feedback strengthens leadership. A commonÂ goal of employee-manager feedback loops is to ensureÂ the employee is performing well in their duties, and ifÂ theyâre not, to help them improve. This leads to betterÂ quality work, productivity, output, and communication,Â which ultimately helps the team and company succeedÂ together.
Still, the most valuable feedback can come from allÂ directions, and leadership has a lot to learn from theirÂ direct reports.
Building a culture of resilience and open feedbackÂ enables individuals of all levels to elevate theirÂ performance. The most effective leaders listen closelyÂ for feedback from all levels to better themselvesÂ continuously. Implementing real-time feedback loopsÂ across the organization is a critical place to start.
3. Not listening to employees is expensive. Employees areÂ central to any business. They are on the front lines andÂ driving the success of the company. If thereâsÂ no system in place for employees toÂ voice their concerns, ideas, andÂ suggestions, millions of dollarsÂ could be lost due to lack ofÂ productivity, inefficientÂ teamwork, workplaceÂ errors, and accidents.Â While real-timeÂ feedback wouldnâtÂ eliminate these risksÂ completely, itâs a directÂ way for companies toÂ assess how to improveÂ processes, culture,Â employee morale, andÂ workplace safety.
Plus, employees want toÂ feel valued. DisengagementÂ could drive turnover whichÂ can cost companies a third ofÂ every lost employeeâs annual salary inÂ replacement and lost productivity fees. ThatÂ is not a small price to pay.
How to Take Action
1. Get leadership buy-in. Real-time feedback mustÂ be adopted by everyoneâfrom the very top of theÂ organization to individual contributors.Â Fostering a culture of consistent feedback and employeeÂ listening must be reflected at the leadership level. WhenÂ executives showcase their commitment to continuousÂ listening, that culture of open communication and highÂ performance will permeate throughout the company.
2. Implement the right technology. This is a digital age.Â The easiest way to connect all employees (globally; off- orÂ online; remotely or in-office; etc.) and encourageÂ their participation is equipping them with technologiesÂ that enable real-time communication. Even better, someÂ technologies can automate employer and managerÂ coaching on how to act on the various kinds of feedbackÂ one gets from employees. Where once it would takeÂ months to sift through engagement surveys to identifyÂ room for improvement, digital technology has allowedÂ for quick responses, analysis, and an ability to focus onÂ solving problems, not just identifying them.
3. Act on the Feedback. Employees want toÂ feel heard, and itâs up to employers toÂ prove theyâre listening.
That means taking action onÂ the employee feedbackÂ and not letting it gatherÂ dust. In fact, sendingÂ out employee surveysÂ without acknowledgingÂ the results is provenÂ to be worse toÂ engagement scoresÂ than never having sentÂ the survey in the firstÂ place.
Start at the manager level. Equip managers withÂ the right tools to establishÂ effective feedback channelsÂ with their teams, and train themÂ on effective follow-up plans ifÂ necessary. Remember: Without action,Â soliciting feedback is meaningless and couldÂ cause even more employees to inch towards the door.
Exit Interviews Should Be a Safety Net
Exit interviews are the backup: a final attempt atÂ assessing why the employer-employee match wasnât aÂ good fit. They should bookend a long dialogue aroundÂ how the company can help employees deliver their bestÂ work. When sitting across from an employee on their lastÂ day of work, most of the employeeâs responses shouldnâtÂ come as a surprise. The hardest conversations shouldÂ already be over and both parties should feel they didÂ everything they could to make the situation work.
Still, organizations depend heavily on exit interviewsÂ to understand how to improve a workplace and reduceÂ turnover. But if companies are so adamant aboutÂ gathering employee feedback on an employeeâs way out,Â isnât it worth doing so while theyâre still at the company?
Listen to employees. They know better than anyoneÂ what they need to perform well at a company and canÂ provide input that will help an employer pave the wayÂ to a successful future.
Shalini Duggal is the chief people and culture officer at Achievers.