We work for a medium-sized corporation. You have said that exit interviews are futile and reactive. If that’s the case, then what would you recommend us given the fact that there are so many communication programs that could give the best employee feedback? — White Rose.
A chubby fourth-grade schoolboy was experiencing his first summer at a rural camp. After two days, he sent his mother a brief text message to express his dissatisfaction with the organizer: “Dear Mom, please send me lots of food here. All we get here is breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
When you’re searching and trying to put up the best employee communication program from many choices around us, sometimes, the process can leave you paralyzed by over-analysis. After all, it’s getting harder to choose from many options.
But you don’t have to copy from others without knowing their context and applicability to your particular situation. You need to be more discerning as you did when you read about my post that exit interviews are ineffective, futile, and reactive and one bad example of securing employee feedback.
Really, exit interviews cannot be relied upon by management as a feedback mechanism because many resigned employees would not want to rock the boat, if not burn the bridge. They will not tell you the real reason or reasons why they’re leaving the organization as they’re more interested to secure their clearance, certificate of employment and terminal pay at the soonest possible time.
Also, resigned employees would want to play it safe because they don’t want their past employer to badmouth them to their prospective bosses. Another clear reason against exit interviews is the likelihood that resigned employees may soon change their minds should their new employment elsewhere proved to be less desirable.
Sure, you can still conduct exit interviews, but be prepared to hear nothing but motherhood statements from resigned employees. If ever, you can only hear from a few disgruntled people who may spill the beans against a certain management policy or the style of their boss as compared to the majority opinion.
That brings us to your question — what’s the best employee communication feedback mechanism? In general, I can tell you only of two schemes:
One, the annual anonymous employee morale survey. Also known as “satisfaction” survey but with the same clear objective. Management would want to hear from the great majority of people who are required to give their honest opinion on many categories that include working conditions, line supervision, compensation package, career opportunities, and many more.
To be more specific about those categories, I am recommending here the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Questionnaire: Do you know what is expected of you at work? Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right? At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person? Is there someone at work who encourages your development? At work, do your opinions seem to count? Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important? Are your associates committed to doing quality work? Do you have a best friend at work? In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress? In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?
To secure accurate and truthful opinions from respondents, it is indispensable that your management ensure the confidentiality of the result, by allowing anonymous answers, except for one’s department or unit. This allows top management to focus their attention on where the problem lies.
Last, the one-on-one, face-to-face “stay” interviews. This is the remedy to the reactive and futile “exit” interview. I’m using the term “stay” not necessarily to convince people about lifetime employment but for you to feel the pulse of individual employees as opposed to the morale survey where majority of employees are expected to participate.
There’s no such thing as a solution that fits all situations. People managers must carefully assess the individual aspirations of their workers that may be different from the majority. People differ in terms of their career goals, educational orientation, marital status and pet peeves.
In conducting “stay” interviews with employees within your department, you may have to consider some of the following generic conversation starters: What is your plan for the future? How can I make your job meaningful for you? How can I help you succeed with your career plans? How would you like the idea of being given autonomy in doing your job? How would you like to be treated fairly in this organization? What do you like best about my management style? What do you like the least?
You might hear many possible likes and dislikes, even if you think you’ve done your best for them under the circumstances and given the limitations of the organization. Some people have peculiar quirks about certain aspects of their work. Therefore, recognizing these likes and dislikes can go a long way toward making the job of proactively communicating with people easier to do.
ELBONOMICS: The best employee feedback is often left unsaid.