Engage Energize Evolve

February 14, 2007

On Exit Interviews

The CFO magazine writes about how exit interviews can be used as a tool to improve retention.

"Turnover is an expensive proposition, and 32 percent of companies surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers expect that cost to increase this year. Domeyer says exit interviews can be an excellent way to stem turnover because people are more likely to be candid about problems once they know they're moving on, especially if they can discuss them with a more objective party in HR."

My experience with exit interviews has been a little different. In fact, for a long time now Ive been wondering about the value of exit interviews. I believe they give you data, which you, as an HR person, should already have been aware of, and that too data - which many times is:

Highly exaggerated and unidimensional - "I hate my manager. and mark my words, everyone from his team is going to attrite in the next 3 months!"

Plagued with recency effect - Promotion loss, dissatisfaction with compensation hike, conflicts with the current boss

Coated with diplomacy - "It's a great place, but my interest lieelsewhere". "I've grown a lot here, now I need something more, which Idon't see this organization being able to give me"

Plain lies - "I wish to take a break in my career", only to find out a month later that the person has joined your competitor.

No one to blame here - because a lot of this is also about the way the exit interviews happen, and when they happen. Often they happen in the last week, amidst a whole lot of paperwork and winding up activities that the employee is swamped in. Also, their end outcome is a paper with the relevant checkboxes ticked - meaningful conversations are rare. And on those few ocassions when the interview has provided a lot of data, HR professionals get caught in the confidentiality rut - how do they act upon this data if they are not allowed to share it in the first place?

On the other hand, doing exit interviews after the employee has left (say within 3 months of his leaving) may be more useful. Logistically a little difficult to manage, but potentially more impactful.

As this CLC report says - (membership required)

Research suggests that companies are increasingly waiting to conduct exit interviews until several months after the employee has left. According to Entrepreneur, employers wait three to nine months, while IOMA and Workforce Management suggest waiting two to seven weeks. Conducting interviews after an employee has left may have the following results:
  • Participation levels may decrease the longer a company waits.
  • Employee feedback may be of higher quality because employees have had time to reflect on their experience with the company and are less busy dealing with other factors associated with changing jobs.
  • Employees may be more level-headed and provide honest, actionable feedback.

And then ofcourse, it could be a great way to build your corporate alumni network!


February 09, 2007

Time to Confess

I have a confession to make. Actually "many" confessions.

I try and practice what I blog (not to be read as "preach"), but sometimes I am unsuccessful.

I still don't have answers to the questions I keep posing.

I dont raise the red flag sometimes.

I try to compete, but end up comparing.

I do not always know the pain areas of my customers

In all the flurry of a hectic work day, I don't end up taking smoke breaks.

No........ I don't get sleepless nights over these contradictions and thats because I manage to retain my authenticity in my writings and in my interactions when I acknowledge that my blog does not always mirror my work life.

But yes, what the blog has done is increase my commitment to executing the written word. Its like this- once you hit the "publish post" button, you have made a "this is my world view" contract with yourself, and living the world view therefore becomes part of that contract. Atleastfor me.

Needless to say, the contradictions remain. They show up when we keep harping about effectiveness metrics and then end up measuring efficiency. They are the cracks on the wall that get formed when we forsake quality to meet numbers. They parade as process improvements when the problem is structural. Or worse still, they get showcased as automations. They become value cards that talk to you of behaviors that you never get to see in the organization.

So why do these refuse to go away? Why is there a gap between what we think and what we end up doing? I think its an interplay of factors. Sometimes its the situation - deadlines, budgets, pressure of meeting targets - and we end up compromising on the solution. Many times its the courage of conviction thats lacking. Its not easy to tell a Line Manager that he is a rotten leader and all the attrition in his team is because of him. On a lot of ocassions, its the credibility that you have built or not built with the business. There's no sense in talking about partnering with the business when you have a pile of mails you havent responded to. And here's the thing about credibility that I firmly believe in - easier to build than to lose. Easy to build because you can start with the small things - regular communication being one of them. Once you've built that, believe me - your customers will forgive you for small omissions you make later on.

And with that, I link to the post that inspired me to write all of this- a post that is already causing some ripples in the HR / OD community - the HR Multiple Personality Disorder.

I think the use of the term MPD has caused a lot of us to sit up and respond!

Whats your soul profile?

Deepak Chopra advocates doing a soul profile while interviewing - to get an insight into what really energizes the person.

He lists the following questions one can ask:
  • What's your purpose?
  • What kind of contribution do you make to the world?
  • What's your passion?
  • What are your peak experiences?
  • What are the top qualities you look for in a good friend?
  • Who are your heroes and heroines from mythology and legend, andfrom history and religion?
  • What are your unique talents and how do you like to expressthem?
  • What are the best qualities you express in your relationships? (Those are the qualities that allow soul to manifest in the world and inthe work place.)

This approach is also a lot about saying "we know you can deliver on thejob because you have demonstrated it through your past experience", but how can we continue to engage your "whole self" and in the process enhance your contribution to yourself, the workplace, and the larger environment?

February 08, 2007

Asking Dumb Questions

Have you ever asked a “dumb” question?

I was three months old in my career – making a presentation to some fairly senior people on a Quality Initiative that I was spearheading. Three slides into the presentation, I was asked by one of them “Whats your “deliverable” at the end of this? All I knew about deliverable that time was how to spell it. So what…..do I go ahead and admit that to this team, who were my management sponsors for the initiative and can at once dismiss me as being naïve ? Well yes…I did just that. “What do you mean by a “deliverable”? is what I asked without batting an eyelid. I got my answer. Which helped me give him the answer he wanted. And I got the support I needed for the initiative.

“What is the biggest skill that an HR professional needs today?”, is what I asked a
friend of mine. “Facilitation skills”, she responded with her characteristic depth and intensity, which her blog is so full of. I couldn’t agree more. And what is at the core of facilitation? Asking dumb questions.

“Is it so?”
“Why does that happen?”
“What do you think about this?”
“I don’t know the world you come from. Tell me more”.
“Is this what you are trying to say?”

We never have complete knowledge. And yet we need to get the big picture. We need to get to the bottom of things. And how do we do that? By asking dumb questions. And sometimes it could be as simple as a

Asking dumb questions requires character. It needs a combination of courage, humility and perseverance. Many
professionals get paid for it. On the flipside, many also get humiliated for it.

But if it is the only way of getting my answer, I would pay the price.