It’s funny to me that I hear so much about attrition and people leaving their jobs and yet, many managers couldn’t say why their employees stay with them (or leave them). My undergraduate degree was in news/editorial writing, so I’ve always been inclined to ask questions; it’s hard for me to understand people who don’t.
The easiest way to find out what motivates your employees is to ask them. Of course, this does require at least some semblance of trust, or you won’t get honest answers. Many of us like to think we know best about certain things and/or that people think like we do, but that’s really not often the case. You might think you work for a great company or that you’re a great manager and are personally fulfilled by the work, but your employees may not feel the same.
If your key employees have been leaving for other jobs, you need to find out what’s going on before you lose anyone else. Exit interviews are good to do and can provide helpful information, but they’re also typically too late (even if you retain an employee who was about to leave). Finding out what your employees think about their work life and what motivates them is essential if you want to succeed.
If you don’t already conduct stay interviews, start doing them. A stay interview is essentially an interview where you ask current employees about their jobs. What do they like about their work? What would they like to change? What would entice them to leave? Do they believe their training has been adequate? Is there someone or something about the company that particularly inspires them? These are some basic questions you might want to ask the employees you really don’t want to lose.
You can ask these questions various ways, but I do think the best way for this is face-to-face, so you can have an interactive dialogue. You want to make sure it’s clear you genuinely want to know the answers, even if they’re difficult to hear. It’s also best in my mind if the supervisor can ask the questions, as they’re most directly affected by the responses, but this won’t work if there isn’t already good communication within a department and an open atmosphere. If there is any question of that, providing for a neutral party to ask (human resources or a manager from another area), could be the answer.
If staff are already running out the door to leave the company or if the logistics are difficult, anonymous survey’s can be done, but you lose the interactive process and may get some skewed answers here as well (or not enough information to really act on). But you need to start somewhere.
In this time of difficulty in recruiting, it’s more important than ever to understand what drives your staff. Some attrition is good, but you want to keep your best performers. You also want to make sure the door is open for good employees to return when the time is right.
Talk to your staff. You might learn something.