How to analyse high turnover among new hires

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

I’m the human resource manager of a small enterprise with 210 employees. This past year, we experienced the resignation of 15 new employees who stayed with us only for an average of 10 months. What’s wrong with us? Does it have something to do with our hiring process, onboarding, corporate culture or the style of our management team? Could you please enlighten us? — Domino Effect.

Back in the days when fathers waited outside of the delivery room for the baby to be delivered, three men were waiting for the good news. The first was informed by the nurse that his wife had twins. He told the nurse: “How coincidental! I’m the coach of the Minnesota Twins.”

A few minutes later, the second man learned his wife had triplets. The coincidence was that he worked for 3M.

The third man panicked and raced toward the door. He was stopped by the two other fathers and asked what happened: “I work for 7-11.”

Surely, in your case, there’s no such thing as coincidence. Mistakes can only happen if there’s a disconnect between your hiring process and the intentions of people whom you would like to hire. In our desire to fill job vacancies we tend to ignore certain issues that could adversely affect employee retention. And this is where most common issues can be found.

If you aren’t aware of these issues, chances are, you will tend to repeat the same hiring mistakes. You will spend a great deal of time correcting these mistakes. To answer your question, to reduce, if not eliminate the high turnover rate of newly-hired employees, you need to consider the following approaches:

One, analyze the result of your exit interviews. I’m not a big fan of exit interviews because proactive “stay” interviews are better. However, in this context, you can limit your analysis to the 15 resigned employees, if only to isolate the issues that may have emerged in their respective cases. No matter how they try to sugar-coat their reasons for leaving, somehow, you can get at the common denominator, as well as some ideas to improve employee retention.

Two, review your job interview questions. Much better if you can create a standard guide for all interviewers that you can use for all job applicants. Your interview questions should reflect the issues that were made known to you by the resigned employees. For instance, if the resigned employees talk about the bad management style of their respective bosses, then it follows you should ask situational questions to your applicants to feel out how they would respond to it.

Three, make the department head responsible. This means making the people manager concerned or department head primarily responsible for minimizing the turnover rate of his people. You can learn this easily from the records. Even without asking point blank the resigned employees, the problem (or the blame) goes directly to the department concerned and not to the organization as a whole or the resigned employees themselves. If this happens, confer with the concerned department head to create a situation where he becomes part of the solution.

Four, review your organizational retention policy. The HR department is the internal expert on employee engagement and empowerment strategies, as part of organizational retention policy. Its role is to create and facilitate corporate-wide programs that should interest all employees, old and new ones alike. HR can give advice to line supervisors and managers on how to reduce employee “pain” with their respective bosses. If you don’t have anything like it, then you can’t give what you don’t have.

Last, avoid making assumptions. When you discuss the issue with the concerned department head, cover as many bases as possible. It may have something to do with the new employees’ lack of understanding of the job requirements, lack of coaching standards, lack of tools or personal protective equipment, even lack of regular interaction between the boss and his workers. Sometimes, you will hear that the new employees could be growing alienated, or even bullied by other workers.

The list can go on and on. If the HR department fails to notice this happening, then the accusing finger will also point in their direction.

Some line executives who don’t want to admit their inadequacies in engaging and retaining employees would simply tell you that 15 resigned employees is nothing compared to the 195 employees who have chosen to stay. Percentage-wise, 15 employees represent only 7% of the total employee population, which is normal under many circumstances.

Therefore, there’s nothing to worry about or so they say. Or is it? There’s no argument that having a single-digit attrition rate is normal, except when the resigned employees all come from the same department and are under one boss. If that happens, go back to Consideration No. 3 above. It tells you that the concerned line manager or department head is primarily responsible for employee retention. No one else can do the job better, even the best motivational speaker around us.

In conclusion, unless those concerned line executives admit their responsibility, there will be no solution in sight, no matter how the HR department does its part. Taiichi Ohno, the inventor of the Toyota Production System, said it many times before: “Having no problems is the greatest problem of all.”

In this sinful world, we are always surrounded by problems. The only recourse is for us to actively discover them the sooner they get into our way. If we refuse to accept there’s a problem somewhere, much more avoiding participation in the process, then there might be no solution in sight, even if you’re the best HR professional on the planet.

ELBONOMICS: Problem employees are created by problem managers.


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