How your offboarding process can help you reduce your turnover rate

Is your turnover rate higher than ever? It might be time to rethink or re-tool your offboarding process.

Turnover is skyrocketing across the board. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover report revealed a staggering 57.3% employee turnover rate across all industries in the U.S. in 2021. This trend has made running a business extremely difficult, but there are steps you can take to improve your own turnover rate, even in this unprecedented economy. The most valuable thing you can do is discover why your employees are leaving so that you can act accordingly.

That’s where your offboarding process comes in. When an employee leaves, they may be willing to discuss the reasons why. By inquiring about this information, you may discover ways to improve the job for the people who are still there.

The most common reasons why employees leave

We know that turnover is high, but why are employees leaving in the first place? We wanted to find out, so we partnered with Arlington Research to ask frontline employees why they’re walking away from their jobs during the Great Recession. Among the insights we gleaned:

  • The #1 reason why employees leave is because they feel overworked and burned out.
  • While compensation remains a factor, many employees have bigger priorities like improved scheduling, better relationships and general appreciation/recognition.
  • Frontline employees don’t feel like they’re receiving the same level of pandemic support as office workers and work-from-home team members. Only 67.3% of frontline employees are satisfied with pandemic support compared to 85.8% of office workers.
  • Many frontline workers feel that skills development is lacking in their workplace.

You can see these insights (and more) in greater detail in our 2021 State of the Frontline Work Experience report.

Other research affirms much of what we’ve observed. For instance, a team of MIT researchers combed through over a million Glassdoor reviews to get a comprehensive sense of why people are quitting during the Great Resignation. They listed the following as the top five motivations:

  • Toxic work culture. The researchers found that, in this economy, workers are more than 10 times more likely to quit over a toxic workplace than over low pay.
  • Job insecurity. The pandemic has led to a lot of company restructuring, shake-ups and general uncertainty. This has led to rampant job insecurity that causes a lot of employees to jump ship.
  • Burnout. As previously noted, our own research found this to be the #1 factor causing frontline workers to quit. According to the MIT researchers, more companies have made innovation a top priority over the past couple of years, if only as a means of rising above the current challenges. But high levels of innovation, while exciting, may also be contributing to employee burnout.
  • Failure to recognize performance. The new work economy is asking a lot from employees. When the hard-working employees aren’t adequately recognized for their contribution, it becomes a sense of tremendous frustration.
  • Poor response to COVID-19. The pandemic response itself has become a major source of concern for employees—whether those employees feel that their workplace isn’t taking the pandemic seriously enough, is taking pandemic measures to extremes or is handling pandemic measures inconsistently.

Keep these trends in mind as you optimize your exit interviews and general offboarding process.

What goes into the employee offboarding process?

Offboarding includes all of the decisions and processes related to overseeing an employee’s departure, whether they’re resigning, retiring or facing termination. Your employee offboarding checklist will include things like reassigning the employee’s responsibilities, preparing the paperwork, collecting company assets and revoking the employee’s accounts, passwords and user rights.

But as you collect your company equipment and process any NDAs with the employee, don’t forget about the all-important exit interview. This is a critical step, and it’s often overlooked. About 25% of companies don’t even bother with exit interviews according to some research—and for companies that do use them, participation isn’t always high. For paper-based exit interviews, participation rates are as low as 30-35%. That’s why you should always strive to conduct exit interviews face to face on company time if possible.

How to use exit interviews to your advantage

Your exit interviews are key to determining your employees’ pain points. While employees will sometimes leave for reasons that have nothing to do with the organization (such as relocation), it’s more common for employees to leave due to dissatisfaction or the belief that a personal need isn’t being adequately met. You’ll want to analyze interview feedback and turn it into data you continuously update to identify trends.

When conducting an exit interview, consider including questions like:

  • What are your primary reasons for leaving?
  • What have you enjoyed most and least about working for this organization?
  • Do you feel that you received adequate training to perform your job to the best of your ability?
  • Was our training system effective for communicating the necessary skills and company expectations?
  • Did you receive the necessary support from your supervisors and team?
  • Do you feel that your contribution to the organization has been adequately recognized?
  • At what point did you realize that this job might not be a good long-term fit for you? (In some cases, the employee will candidly declare that they had their doubts from day one)
  • What can we do to improve our operations to make employees feel supported?
  • Do you feel that our company culture is aligned with your personal values?

Using the feedback from your departing employee, you can improve your onboarding process, maximize employee engagement and ensure that future employees stay longer.

Other ways to reduce turnover

While exit interviews are important, they won’t tell you everything. Employees won’t always be 100% transparent in answering your interview questions, and in many cases, they might not fully understand their own reasons for leaving. They might just know that they’re “struggling” or “fed up.” So how do you fill in the blanks?

There are other tools that you can use to glean important information. Not only can these tools help you to better understand your turnover rate, but often they can help you to prevent personnel losses before they even get to the offboarding stage.

Provide adequate training and support

Employee retention starts on day one with the onboarding process. If you have a good onboarding LMS like Axonify, you can give new employees a firm foundation for success within the company while collecting valuable data about how people are developing and performing on the job as potential leading indicators of disengagement and potential turnover.

Axonify will give you insights like:

  • How well your employees understand important job-related concepts
  • How confident your employees feel in their knowledge of job-related concepts
  • How engaged your employees are with company training

In addition, you can embed surveys right into the training lessons to get deeper insights into how your employees feel about the content and about their own role within the organization. Armed with this information, you can often spot when an employee is struggling or has doubts—and then provide the necessary coaching or assistance before a small frustration turns into a resignation.

Company surveys

It’s a good idea to send out a regular company-wide survey to gauge the general health of your workforce. While a large quarterly survey can still do the trick, many companies are moving away from this approach because the surveys take so long to administer, analyze and take action. Instead, more companies are moving toward smaller pulse surveys, collecting data more regularly to understand changes in employee sentiment.

No matter how you decide to administer your surveys, the key is to inquire about where your employees are excelling, where they’re struggling, where they have questions and whether or not their needs are being met.

Some of the questions in a company survey may be similar or identical to those you’d include in an exit interview. But rather than gathering information from departing employees, you’re gathering information from—and potentially retaining—existing employees who might be on the fence.

As an alternative to company surveys (or in conjunction with company surveys), you can also ask the same types of questions during employee performance reviews. A performance review should be a two-way street. On the one hand, you’re coaching your employees on their strengths and areas for improvement. At the same time, you’re listening and learning about how you can help these employees get the most from their workplace experience.

And, of course, you don’t want to neglect your new employees who are still learning the ropes. 30-, 60- and 90-day check-ins are a common practice during onboarding. You can assess how employees feel about the job so far and how they’re being supported, and then you can offer help in a personal way.

Online data

Just like the aforementioned MIT researchers, you can use company review sites like Glassdoor to gain additional insights. Because Glassdoor reviews are submitted anonymously, former employees tend to be much more candid and honest about their reasons for leaving and their assessments of the company as a whole.

Just note that, every once in a while, a former employee will post a personal, unfair and grossly exaggerated indictment of their workplace experience. You have to remember that people who leave unprompted reviews—whether of a company or a product—are usually those who have strong feelings one way or the other. This can give you a sense of sentiment but should be used as part of the story, not the entire story—unless the trend is clear.

You’ll never eliminate turnover, but you can reduce it

The goal isn’t to eliminate turnover entirely. There are always going to be resignations and replacements (not to mention the occasional employee termination), especially if you operate in a high-turnover industry like retail, food service or any business with a large frontline presence. But even if you only reduce your turnover by a marginal percentage, it can help your business to run much more efficiently and more profitably.

Use whatever tools you have at your disposal to minimize your turnover: employee perks, LMS data and surveys. And, of course, make sure to follow onboarding best practices. You won’t be able to make all of your employees’ wishes come true, but you will be able to identify important trends that may be hindering your business. And that will make all the difference.

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