AFTER THOUGHT : The truth about exits

Our human resource team interviews people leaving our company and comes up with detailed statistics on about 50 different topics. It’s way more than I want but the HR director insists this is the right approach. Who’s right?

Chuck out your current questionnaire. It’s trying too hard. Your HR people are also trying too hard to demonstrate their own value. That’s often the case. chief exec or HR manager reckons – quite logically – that there’s value in identifying the reasons why people leave an organisation. The head honchos want to get some feedback on important issues affecting employment. So, they ask an HR administrator to develop an exit interview system.
This person usually ends up creating questionnaire that covers huge range of issues: they want to know why the person is leaving and also understand the person’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their employment. There’s too much detail and the whole thing often misses the real reason the person has decided to leave.
Plus, when people leave an organisation they usually want to leave good impression so their comments are fairly guarded. They like to say innocuous stuff and keep it general.
You’d be better off focusing on when the person actually made the decision to leave. This simplifies the process enormously. The discussion can also be lot more informal. Get your interviewers to ask: ‘When did you make the decision to leave?’ It’s as simple as that.
This immediately focuses the conversation on an actual, rather than hypothetical, situation. The interviewer then encourages the person to describe what happened, how they felt and what finalised the decision.
For example, “I was in management meeting and I suddenly looked around and thought ‘do I really want to work with these people for another year?’” Or, “I was very happy in my work and felt I was developing well. On Wednesday last week my manager asked me if I would withdraw my application for new role as he felt another person should get chance.”
In the first example the person was clearly not aligned with the rest of the organisation. In the second they had suddenly lost trust and confidence in their manager and the company overall.


Friends who are managers at large organisations keep talking about how they are using balanced scorecards at work. My manager is now saying he wants me to think about using it in our company so I need to get my head round this idea fast. Can you help?

Think of it this way: Traditionally, managers have measured the performance of their organisations mostly using financial measures. But these don’t tell the whole story. In way, it’s bit like driving car and just watching the fuel gauge. Other measures such as engine temperature and oil pressure give you bigger and more balanced picture of what’s happening. The same goes for organisations. Just measuring the financials is like just watching the petrol gauge.
Bear in mind, too, that just reviewing financial measures doesn’t show how well the organisation is implementing its desired strategy. In today’s competitive world it is vitally important to have clear vision of where you want your organisation to be and strategy for how you will get there.
Most companies present balanced scorecard on single sheet of paper. It often resembles car or aircraft dashboard. It generally covers four key areas of the business rather than just one. For example customers, operations, people and, of course, finance. Examples of measures in each group could be ‘delivery in full and on time’ for customers. The ‘number of rejects in production process’ for operations. The ‘true cost of hiring new employee’ for people. The original financial measures still also apply.
Lay out the page in way that shows the desired measures in each of the four groups in the form of graphs, tables or pictures. The outcomes will be shown against the planned strategic targets.
Depending on their size, companies will often prepare balanced scorecard for the various management levels in the organisation.
If you want to swot up some more, check out Robert Kaplan and David Norton’s book Balanced Scorecard (Harvard Business School Press). They’re the guys who came up with the idea in the first place.

• Address your problems to Kevin Gaunt at: [email protected]

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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