503380495_28dce090ecIf I were a senior executive who had to look at figures and statistics on why people are leaving my company, I would pull my hair out (maybe this is why I’m not a senior executive … I still have too much hair). Not because people are perhaps leaving in their droves, but because the figures are actually so meaningless. What does it really mean if the staff turnover rate is 15%? Then, you get the superficial reasons stuck to these figures like parasites: 60% of the people who left felt our communication was poor; 55% of the people left felt they had a constructive relationship with their direct manager.

What is even more sad … is that the organization believes that these stats are good enough to launch interventions at addressing the reasons people leave. It really is no wonder that these often fail – it is because people are using information that lacks context to construct hypotheses on why people are leaving. And so, the questions asked about why people leave constrain the data.

Should it not be the other way around? Should an organization rather let the data speak to them and let the data constrain the questions?

Getting this right all starts with being able to ask the right questions in an exit interview, questions that will proverbially “throw the net wide” and that elicit the most useful responses. A question you should not ask is: rate your experience of corporate communications on a scale of 1 to 5. But rather, one should ask: of the experiences you or a friend has had with communications in this company, share one that showed how well communications can work, and share one that shows how communications can go wrong.

Our advice for organisation is to conduct interview from a narrative-elicitation perspective. These stories, and the organisations ability to capture them, will provide much needed context for the atrition rates executives analyse. They will also provide a platform from which contextually relevant inteventions can be embarked on.

Photo courtesy of damien_m_in_japan.