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An Employee Quit. 4 Ways to Figure Out Why

As a business owner, it can be painful (and costly) when an employee leaves your company. And since high turn-over can signal problems to other prospective talent, it’s important to retain them for the well-being of your business. No matter which employee quit, determining why they left is the first step to building a stronger company culture with greater employee engagement.

Use the following four strategies to find out why your employees leave, no matter what their position is:

1. Get the information from them directly.

The easiest and quickest way to determine why good employees leave get a new job is to get an honest answer from them. It can be awkward to ask, and you might feel reluctant to communicate with the employee, but it’s a missed opportunity not to ask them directly. 

Regardless of your emotions about the situation, they are leaving your company, and there may be little you can do to change that. What you can do, though, is respond kindly when they resign. Take the time to empathize and seek to understand what caused them to leave. 

Do this by making them feel like they can be honest with you in an exit interview, without consequence or hurting your feelings. Having this face-to-face conversation (not over Slack or email) will give you the opportunity to listen to them and learn from their experience at your business.

If they don’t give you a clear answer, or seem to be beating around the bush, it may take some further investigating to get to the core of the departure. 

2. Think back to others who have recently resigned and look for patterns.

I was recently chatting with a friend who owns a small business, and she told me that an employee had just left her company, but she didn’t know why. 

As we were talking, she mentioned that a different employee left about six months back, one who was very friendly with the worker currently leaving. Not only that, but the present worker was going to work in the same field as the previous resignee. 

Just like that, we found a probable answer. The first employee likely convinced the second to come join her in the new field. The lesson? When a good friend of one or more people in your office leaves, it takes extra effort to keep the spirit and motivation high of the ones staying put.

Thinking back on past employees could reveal other patterns as well. If women in their 20s have been leaving, could it be because they’re not comfortable in the work environment? That’s something you’ll need to investigate. By the same token, if your sales team is churning through employees quickly, it could be due to a poor manager or unrealistic work expectations in a specific department. 

3. Ask around your company.

Make the effort to talk not only with departing employees but also with their supervisors, managers, their friends, and others they might have interacted with frequently.

Someone who has worked closely with said person for a year will likely have way more information than you can gather alone. Ask about changes in their behavior, attitude and performance. Also ask if any recent events might have caused your employee to leave.

4. Keep track of what a departing worker does next.

Whether you get any information on what happened from other workers or not, it’s a good idea to follow what your former employees do next. You’ll see what they left your company to go do.

If they switch to a competitor, then possibly they didn’t feel valued on your team. Did they switch industries? It could be that they had a change of heart, unrelated to you or your business. Perhaps they went back to school or enrolled in other training (such as computer coding bootcamp). Then they wanted new skills that you could have possibly supported them in building. 

By observing future behavior, you can gather useful information and discover patterns across multiple resignations.

Take the time to learn from employees who quit.

It can be time consuming and even emotional to determine what causes your best employees to leave your business. That said, putting in the work and learning from past mistakes will help you improve employee retention, and prevent similar issues from arising again. It’ll also save you significant time and money down the road, since you won’t have to constantly recruit new employees to replace the ones who leave.

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