How to find out why your people are really leaving

A fascinating article in this month’s Human Resource Executive looks at how American fast food chain Taco Bell has tackled a crippling staff turnover issue.

Working with consultancy Mercer, Taco Bell embarked on what is described as an “analytics fuelled mission” to get to the bottom of why people were leaving – and what the business needed to do to encourage them to stay.

Of course, Taco Bell is a huge organisation and was able to access specialist expertise to support its deep dive into the facts and stats.  But the way it used its data, and the lessons it was able to draw from it, are applicable to any business trying to find answers as to why people are leaving.

Work with the data you already have

Any business with an HR software system already has access to a wealth of data.  There will be stats about length of tenure, career progression, performance, training, pay and benefits, to name just a few.  The problem is that this information is often held in silos and no-one attempts to join the dots.  Bring all the data together, however, and you will find it tells a story, or at the very least will provide a few clues as to where a problem with retention might lie.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have data to cover every aspect of the employee experience – even small amounts of intelligence can be brought together and used to inform the beginnings of a retention strategy.

Ask, listen, observe

Taco Bell supplemented its data analytics with supporting anecdotal evidence, gathered on the front line.  The team went out to visit restaurants and observed employees at work.  They held focus groups for employees, took an enquiry team on the road and talked to everyone from the newest starter to the most seasoned restaurant manager.  When it comes to retention programmes, this personal touch is an aspect that is often missing.  Organisations put together all-singing, all-dancing retention strategies without actually talking in any detail to employees.  They take the results of the latest employee survey as read, pay lip service to the idea of asking for feedback from employees, and are then surprised when their initiatives fail to deliver.  If you really want to know why people are leaving your business, stand in their shoes for a while – and listen to what they have to say about their experience of working for you.

Keep an open mind

At the beginning of its journey, Taco Bell thought it knew what was behind its retention problem.  But although it’s assumption that pay was one of the main issues was correct, it turned out not to be quite that simple.  The problem was more to do with the way work was being scheduled and the number of guaranteed hours (and therefore pay) employees could expect.  Training methods (it was taking starters too long to learn the necessary skills) and the practice of frequently moving general managers around (thereby breaking up valuable relationships) also emerged as key factors.  If your business is experiencing issues with turnover, don’t assume you know the answer.  Sometimes you have to dig deep to get to the real root of the problem.

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