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Your quarterly run-through of essential skills, with expert commentary

Employees moving on can be a costly business. There’s lost productivity before and after they go, the cost of hiring a replacement (and the possibility they won’t work out) and the impact on the morale of the remaining team members. While some attrition is unavoidable, HR departments increasingly believe that drilling down into the detail of who’s leaving, and why, can help direct some simple interventions that might prevent the pain of unwanted departures. “If businesses can diagnose the reasons behind the loss of staff, they can make considerable financial savings on training new workers and hiring talent,” says Liam Butler, sales vice president EMEA of HR software provider SumTotal. Most employers will conduct an exit interview with departing employees, but their effectiveness varies, says Butler: “There’s an inherent weakness in the exit interview process, as workers rarely feel comfortable enough to give honest feedback. They are concerned about receiving a positive reference for their next position, and are therefore less likely to be frank about the shortcomings they have experienced in their previous post.” Butler believes the process of establishing why people leave should begin much sooner, during appraisals and informal staff catch-ups, for example. “By conducting regular feedback cycles, businesses can not only establish the core issues driving staff turnover, they can 30

People Management Middle East

begin to address them before a new wave of staff look to jump ship.” Tom Raftery, director of Dubai-based HR consultancy It’s All About People, recommends contacting the departing employee a few months after they have left for a follow-up conversation – although he says this is currently only being done by a minority of GCC businesses. “They will be in a better position to talk and you will probably get closer to the truth,” he says. “Some companies will also use consultants to hold a structured interview with people who have left.”

What’s keeping you? 76% Proportion of employees in the

Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region who say the turnover rate in the company is ‘very high’ or ‘moderately high’

28% of employees say they

have stayed in a role for more than two years

44% of respondents say sales and marketing are the departments with the highest turnover

45% of respondents say pay

is the primary reason for switching jobs

Source: survey of 11,120 employees across MENA region



Understand why people leave your organisation

Another option is to give departing employees a questionnaire to fill out, with a provision that you will not share any information with line managers until after an agreed period – perhaps a month or two. This can help staff who have had a problem with a particular line manager to be honest. Once you have collected any data, via interviews or questionnaires, it is vital to process it properly so you can spot trends. “Once an organisation has identified the key reasons for staff turnover, it should be looking to tackle the issues and demonstrate its commitment to its workforce,” Butler says. But beware assuming Butler says exit interviews rarely that all staff attrition reveal the truth is the same: it is worth giving more weight to the experiences and feedback of those employees you particularly wanted to keep, or who are difficult to replace, and potentially focusing your retention efforts on such precious cohorts. In Raftery’s experience, culture counts too. Some HR managers find it hard to give unfavourable feedback because it goes against the culture of not making one another ‘lose face’, but he argues that these issues should be dealt with head-on: “You need to take action by giving feedback in a constructive and positive way.” Uncovering the reasons people leave may help organisations keep hold of talent, says Raftery. “Businesses are struggling to get staff of the right calibre. There is a very small talent pool, and a real skills shortage.”

People Management Middle East: Issue 2  

The CIPD magazine for the Middle East