Listening to the sentiment of existing employees is a bitter-sweet experience. While we understand that employees would eventually leave the organization for diverse reasons, we could not help but notice the sweet to sour, bitter to sweet feedback summary of experiences gathered for years or months of working in the company.
The exit interview is a gold mine that could be used to sort out what most employees feel or think about the organization--the only gold mine which most management would dare not dig. Why? For several reasons, management would rather hold on to the belief that employees who leave the company have basic discontent which the management could not address. This is a myth that is conveniently patronized by those who resist the idea of change and improvement that should be done in terms of structure, management style or other factors which affect employee retention.
During offboarding activities which include exit interview, learning session and even short interaction with the employee to be offboarded, we can encounter facets of the organization through the experiences drawn and summed up by the leaving employees. Lots of lessons could be gleaned from those sessions and taking the interaction for granted is a big mistake. Some testimonials and experiences should be taken with a grain of salt, but overall, the experiences shared by leaving employees are areas to be delved into and utilized if we want to improve as an organization.
Most notable of those experiences are the “love-hate” feedback about the company. Consider the following sharing from some employees during offboarding sessions:
“I love to work here: I love the camaraderie of the team, the workplace atmosphere and the easiness of relating with one another, but...career growth and professional development seemed not prioritized, and I have to leave because I want to grow career-wise”, said one leaving employee and sensing the sadness in the tone and manner of expressing those words, I need to reassure the employee that an appropriate feedback to management in terms of training and development, promotion and career path should be taken.
Another feedback is about management style:
“The company offers me a lot of growth opportunity and space for improvement, but the only thing I could not bear is the manner that the manager lacked the time and effort to listen to us, or to appreciate what we are doing”. Given the feedback and the openness of the manager to review his or her management style, organizational improvement is attainable.
While these feedbacks could be gleaned through survey, a personal, face to face and interactive dialogue done during offboarding is indispensable to understand the experience of existing employees. We could understand the love-hate phenomena: Any organization, like a living system, has its best feature and also flaws. So why not take the love-hate experiences shared by leaving employees as objectively as possible and yet heed what needs to be done, changed, or even retained?
What is most disheartening to hear is about a comment which really smears an organization’s reputation:
“I really like the vision, mission and even the core values of the company; I align myself and embrace it wholeheartedly, but you know what? The rest of the leaders are not even living a single core value as I observe. It is just lip service”
Disheartening because here we are, listening and taking in what the “would-be-outsider” attests after knowing the people in the company and you will feel all efforts done for the organization are in vain. But hey, even then, those are flaws that need to be evaluated and to be taken as challenges and areas of improvement. This feeling of being disheartened should lead towards purposeful action: to improve attitude and behaviour in the organization, and to remember that the most discontented customer is the most welcome feedback giver.
Offboarding is the most underutilized program in the organization, a gold mine of employee experiences left unearthed. If taken with much appreciation and value, management could see how this program covered the love and hate experiences of employees and how these experiences collide to make an impact worth acting for.