Separation Phase Insights: Understand the Real Reasons Why Employees Leave

Petros Vaxevanakis
Separation Phase Insights: Understand the Real Reasons Why Employees Leave

It’s inevitable that employees will leave your organisation, but in large and small companies alike it’s not always easy to figure out why – or to be certain the underlying issues have been resolved.

Exit interviews are considered one of the best ways to figure this out, but because they only look at a single point in time, they often fall short. Instead, data collected prior to an employee’s departure can deliver both robust insights and dedicated actions for your business, with the primary intention of reducing turnover.

Separation phase insights were born from an acknowledgement of the limitations of traditional exit interviews.

Employee turnover can be damaging

Resignations come with a significant price tag. Your business invests money in recruiting the right staff to join, along with ongoing investments such as staff training and benefits, development and rewards. When you lose an employee, this investment walks out of the door with them.

There are also costs that are difficult to measure but significant all the same: the disturbed client relationships, hours spent on handovers, and unavoidable loss of knowledge when someone leaves. Then, the process begins again – recruitment costs stretching into the tens of thousands, followed by the initial downtime whilst an employee embeds themselves within your business.

A regrettable departure will influence those left behind as well. Losing a team member can disrupt live projects and will usually increase the burden on the incumbent team. And when a tight-knit team is fractured, it will also take a heavy toll on morale.

This may not be the limit of the damage. If other team members have experienced similar frustrations, they may also be thinking about leaving. So, how do you learn from each resignation to prevent future regrettable departures?

Exit interviews and surveys don’t work

The traditional way to analyse attrition is through an exit interview or survey. This provides, in theory, an opportunity for a leaver to communicate dissatisfaction in a neutral environment, and for the organisation to learn more.

To achieve this, the survey would ideally capture the reasons that contributed to an employee’s resignation over time. While the intention is a good one, the execution rarely provides the data you’re hoping to capture.

The one-time format is your first limitation. It is difficult to unpack a complex situation such as a resignation during a single interview, which often leads to an incomplete view. Employees are also more likely to remember recent events, even if their reasons for leaving are more nuanced and have developed over time.

The process itself doesn’t suit employees either – a very significant second limitation. If a staff member is already committed to leaving, they might lack the motivation to give you a full analysis. Depending on the circumstances, staff members may choose to hold back if they do not want to burn bridges. Or you could end up with some very emotionally-charged feedback. For the health of your organisation, you would want to properly understand every resignation, but traditional exit surveys suffer from notoriously low response rates.

The third issue stems from turning your data into a meaningful strategy for reducing turnover. Without a plan, conducting an exit interview becomes nothing more than a formality. Constructing any plan requires time and effort, but it can be even more challenging to do so using incomplete data. If you are already making changes based upon exit interview data, have you been able to measure the reduction in attrition?

The full employee experience cycle is important

An employee’s tenure can be divided into four distinct phases. Onboarding covers the first three months of employment, and it’s when an employee begins to settle in. This is followed by initial development, when they find where they best fit, what they can contribute to and how they can add value to their team. In this phase, they may master their first role in the company. At the next stage – ongoing development and retention – employees are up to speed and ready to deliver the greatest value to the business. They may have been at the company for a couple of years by this point.

The final phase can occur at any time, but will always come last. Separation covers the final period of employment, and in terms of measurable engagement levels, it is a distinct phase in its own right.

To address the root causes of employee turnover, it’s critical to understand how employees were feeling in the months leading up to their departure. This makes it easier to identify the point in time when they started to feel disengaged, whether there is a common cause amongst departing employees, and how you can address these issues in future.

Understand the separation phase

It’s worth acknowledging that there will always be reasons why people leave an organisation. Furthermore, the decision to leave rarely occurs as a fully-formed thought. It usually develops over an extended period of time.

Separation phase data, roughly covering the three months before someone’s final day at the company, shows that this period overwhelmingly correlates with a sustained lowering of engagement levels. This data is highly predictive and can tie engagement levels to a set of factors contributing to the lower score.

It makes statistical sense to address this phase in its entirety rather than just taking a one day snapshot before leaving. This way, the nuanced issues that built into a resignation are all captured.

The case for analysing separation phase

The separation report is a new segment within Peakon that contains all the feedback from your recent leavers during their final months at the organisation. That feedback is collected from the same pulse surveys that your employees complete on a regular basis, which means there’s no need to schedule an interview or send additional exit-specific surveys.

This approach addresses the three limitations binding traditional exit interviews:

1. FREQUENCY

“What prompted you to start looking for your new job?” is a common exit interview question. The level of insight you could gain from one question is low when compared to a possible 52 separate responses from your departing employee over a three-month period. This data highlights the comments and priorities of people in the lead-up to their departure, uncovering the root cause of attrition with greater predictability and accuracy.

2. EMPLOYEE ADOPTION

The separation phase approach provides a better experience for your people. It allows employees to give feedback safely and anonymously without requiring them to compromise professional relationships. This increases the reliability of responses compared to exit interviews, especially if their reasons for leaving relate to issues within the organisation – which are often more difficult to talk about with HR and senior management.

3. ACTIONS

Harnessing meaningful actions from departing employees should always be a top priority. Peakon uses more than 40 million data points to quickly identify the chain of events that led to someone’s departure and make data-driven recommendations for the right fixes. What’s more, the data from all leavers trains your attrition model to become more accurate and reliable over time.

This approach supports leaders to make changes and improve relationships with remaining employees. Separation Insights and subsequent manager action plans can also be made visible to stakeholders across the business, promoting accountability and ensuring that steps are taken to reduce turnover. Using the interactive employee experience report, you can begin to monitor the impact of your changes and see them working.

Getting started

Separation reporting is already built into the Peakon platform. Watch the webinar recording below to see the feature in action, or read more about how it works in Our Help Centre article, in which Brett explains how to upload your leaver data and get your first insights.

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