Q: In the department I manage, we have recently experienced a sudden increase in turnover. What concerns me is that none of the supervisors knew that their employees were planning to leave.
I encourage supervisors to have monthly one-on-one meetings with employees, but this apparently isn’t working as well as I had hoped. What can we do to make people open up to management?
A: You seem distressed that your former employees never confessed their desire to depart. However, smart people don’t tell management when they’re considering other opportunities.
Instead of trying to ferret out secret job-search plans, you should determine what is motivating your employees to look elsewhere. For this purpose, you need some additional tools in your communication toolbox.
When people resign in the future, make it a practice to do exit interviews. Continue the supervisory one-on-ones, but add quarterly skip-level meetings in which you chat with each employee individually. Even if people are cautious with their comments, you may spot red flags if you listen carefully.
During these conversations, consider asking current staff members why they believe people have been choosing to leave. Employees are usually much more willing to discuss others’ complaints than to reveal their own.
Finally, conduct an annual employee opinion survey using an experienced outside vendor. When people believe responses are confidential, they are much more likely to be open and honest. Then, once you have diagnosed the reasons for this turnover, you can begin to create some realistic retention plans.