In this episode of Outback Talks, we sit down with Tracey Topping of the multinational technology company Left to discuss five factors that contribute to the organization's impressive retention rate.
In the latest episode of Outback Talks: The Employee Engagement Podcast, we sit down with Tracey Topping, Employee Experience Manager at multinational technology company Left, to discuss the five factors that have contributed to the company’s impressive 97% retention rate.
Listen to the podcast or continue reading below for a summary of the discussion, including:
- The Power of Core Values
- The Importance of Company Culture
- The Benefits of Open Communication
- Measuring Employee Satisfaction
- Answering the Millennial Question
Great businesses understand the value in keeping their employees on board for a long time. Not only is it good for morale, but it's also very beneficial for bottom lines.
A study by the Center for American Progress found that losing an employee costs the employer, on average, 21% of that employee’s salary. That’s because when your business loses an employee, along with taking a financial hit, you also lose their talent, the time it took to train them, and momentum on productivity. The longer employees stay at their jobs, the more skills they gain and the closer the company gets to achieving its purpose. Retaining your employees and maintaining their happiness is imperative to the overall success of a business.
With a 97% retention rate, multinational media and technology company Left knows a thing or two about how to keep a great team. In the latest episodes of Outback Talks: The Employee Engagement Podcast, we sit down with Tracey Topping, Left's Employee Experience Manager, to discuss how and why the company has such a high retention rate, what kind of factors make employees want to stay at a company, and more.
Left is a certified B Corporation. That means that the company is part of a global community of leading organizations using business as a force for good. And for Left, one of the main ways they sustain this momentum is by staying true to their core values (check out our read: A Step-by-Step Guide to Uncovering Your Company’s Core Values).
"They allow us to convey what we stand for as a company," Tracey says. "So, [by] being open and transparent with regards to the recruitment process, we get people who want to join Left because they, too, are values aligned. And our values are baked into our DNA. They go into every decision. They are our North Star, or guiding light, if you will."
Companies need to live their defined core values every day — otherwise, they’re just words.
"Surveys often state that competitive compensation, competitive benefits, and perks are key drivers to employee staying at a company,” Tracey continues. “And, of course, these are important, and, yes, you have to be competitive in those areas — but they alone won’t make employees feel satisfied in their jobs or compel them to stay with a company for a long term. There is a lot of research around workplace happiness and it’s shown that job satisfaction from these tangible things like having pride in your organization, being treated with fairness and respect, being engaged in interesting and meaningful work, and basically building a positive workplace relationship, has a bigger impact."
When values are out of alignment, employees work towards different goals with different intentions and with different outcomes. This can be damaging to working relationships, productivity, job satisfaction, and creative potential. Values alignment, in turn, helps the organization achieve its core mission — and encourages employees to stay.
Another thing about core values? They go hand-in-hand with company culture.
"Your organization’s workplace values set the tone for your company’s culture," Tracey explains. "They identify what your organization, as a whole, cares about. Even though you can’t control every factor that contributes to your employee satisfaction at work, it is possible to create a workplace that allows productivity and positivity to flourish. And when this does happen, people understand one another, everyone does the right things for the right reasons, and this common purpose and understanding helps people build great working relationships."
Company culture is what drives employee satisfaction — and vice versa. "So many people these days are not just looking for a job, they are actually looking for a role that fits them, who they are," Tracey says.
How does Left do it? Well, among elements including in-office pets (two dogs, named Django and Milo) and their own Toastmasters club (a group that focuses on developing public speaking and leadership skills), Left has a community engagement program that greatly contributes to their culture.
"We do everything that we can to support the part of our local community down to buying local," Tracey says. "And as part of that, we have unlimited community hours. One of our core values is Impact Your Community, so you can take the day or a couple of hours, whatever you need to go out there and help in your community."
Tracey adds, "Every company has a culture, either by default or by design. When companies don’t pay attention or guide the culture, the wrong values can become ingrained and employees can learn by observation. Things like a culture of secrecy or placing blame or cutting corners. But when you take control and shape the behavior of employees, you need to set core values deliberately, take them seriously, and operationalize them. Having them without acting on them is actually worse than not having them at all."
One of the most important ways to cultivate a positive environment for employees is to ensure that the lines of communication are always open. This helps employees feel connected to their organization and fosters a positive work experience.
"Clear and frequent communication of company happenings — individual, departmental, big company discussions — they can make all the difference in employee happiness," Tracey says.
Left uses a wide variety of ways to share information with one another. Among them are a company huddle every morning, regular one-on-ones with team leads, and sharing successes with one another every week.
"Before we break up for the weekend, everyone shares a win," Tracey says. "It can be a work win or it can be a personal win, and it just gets you to reflect on your week and what’s important. It’s really cool to see what people have achieved that week."
They use a couple of Slack-integrated apps, too: Jellyfish, on which people can anonymously post questions and respond to them, and Donut, that pairs people from different departments to meet for coffee or lunch. Tracey emphasizes that encouraging cross-departmental collaboration, both in terms of work projects and social engagements, is really important in nurturing communication.
And, largely, so is feedback. All employees should feel like their voice matters.
"The ability to understand employee concern is important, but it’s what you do after that’s critical to retention,” Tracey stresses. “So, you should always be transparent by sharing what you’ve learned [and having] a course of action for addressing the issue. And a simple acknowledgement that ‘we heard you’ can go a long way."
How can companies gauge how happy their employees are? There are a few ways. While "stay interviews" — where somebody from the human resources department sits down with a valued employee to learn more about the things that make them happy and want to continue to stay in their role — are great, Tracey says ensure you don’t forget about checking in with everyone else. Again, emphasizing the fact that everyone, not just the highest performing employees, is equally important and deserves to have their voice heard.
"I do believe that all employees need the chance to speak up, because, in the end, there is a reason that an employee isn’t shining as brightly as another," Tracey says. "You know, it’s quite daunting, especially if you are new or if you’ve been there for a while and things are changing, to ask for help, and we need to recognize that and open those doors, to provide them to say what they need to say and in a safe environment."
In the same way, “exit interviews” can be a valuable means of measuring employee satisfaction. While, ideally, conversations should be had to mitigate the risk of an employee leaving before it gets to the point of them actually doing so, understanding what led someone to resign can provide great insight on what the company might need to change internally.
"It can catalyze leaders' listening skills, it can reveal what does or does not work inside the organization, and highlight some hidden challenges and opportunities," Tracey says. "It can promote engagement and retention by signaling to your employees that their views actually do matter, and it can turn passionate employees into corporate ambassadors for years to come.”
Along with regular one-on-ones between managers and their teams, Left carries out 30, 60, and 90-day check-ins with new employees. The company also does bi-weekly check-ins with a tool called Perked! that measures employee engagement.
"It provides us with real time feedback that we can action right away, and it allows us to stay agile in our culture development," Tracey explains. "It’s also totally anonymous, which, like I said earlier, opens the doors a little bit wider for open and honest feedback and dialogue."
By 2020, millennials will comprise 50% of the global workforce, according to research by PwC. So, when it comes to considering employee retention, this is something that employers need to keep in consideration.
As millennials start to comprise a bigger and bigger chunk of the workforce, it’s important to “address the millennial question” in order to ensure you’re making your work environment the most appealing one possible to the people who are going to be quickly taking over the workforce.
A recent study by Gallup found that that 21% of millennials say they've changed jobs within the past year – three times the number of non-millennials who report the same. Does a company with a high turnover rate, then, necessarily mean that it’s a bad place to work?
"Millennials are [often] characterized as entitled job-hoppers," Tracey says. "And that could be true for some. But, in reality, is it that this group is just not engaged at work? The world has changed, so I do think it is the sign of the times to some degree. But I also think that many millennials really don’t want to switch jobs — their companies are just not giving them compelling reasons to stay. So, when they see what happens to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it. And so, while millennials can come across as wanting more and more, the reality might be that they just want a job that feels worthwhile, and maybe they’ll just keep looking until they find it.”
Ultimately, Tracey says, employees need to be happy with what they are doing. And it’s in a business’ best interest to talk to their talent to find out what they want.
“The bottom line is that by focusing on employee retention, organizations will retain the talent and motivate the employees who truly want to be a part of a company and those who have focus on contributing to the organization’s overall success."
Get Your Employees Engaged
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Yasmine Shemesh: Welcome back to Outback Talks: The Employee Engagement Podcast. This podcast is produced by Outback Team Building & Training, a leading team building, training, and consulting provider for organizations across North America. I’m your host, Yasmine Shemesh, and on today’s show we have a very special guest joining us from a multinational media and technology company Left. Tracey Topping is the Manager of Employee Experience at Left and she sat down with me in our studio here to talk about all things employee retention, including best practices to measure satisfaction and what kind of factors can help someone really love their role and want to stay at the company that they work at.
YS: I am sitting here with Tracey, thank you so much for joining me today.
Tracey Topping: Thanks for having me.
YS: Oh, my pleasure! Alright, so, first of all, can you tell me just a little bit about Left, the company that you work for, and what you do there?
TT: Yeah, of course. So, Left, we are a B Corp-certified technology company. We strive to use businesses as a force good and technology as a force for change. We’re located out in the burbs, in Maple Ridge – so for those that don’t know, it’s a suburb in Vancouver. We were officially named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers recently, which is amazing.
YS: That is awesome!
TT: Along with the many other awards that we are very fortunate to have been recognized with this year, so, obviously we’re doing something good! We’ve grown to a global team of over 160 people, so we have people not only in Canada, but in Bangladesh, Singapore, and the US.
And just to explain what Left actually does – so, Left is the parent company to subsidiaries such as Left Travel. And Left Travel uses big data, AI, and predictive analysis to help users find the best short-term accommodations for the perfect travel experience.
Left’s other subsidiary is RightMesh, which is a mobile mesh network project, which incorporates blockchain into organizations to address the global challenge of connectivity, particularly in regions where the digital divide is the greatest. And although these teams laser focus on their unique goals within each of the subsidiaries, they are all driven by the same core values and mission, and that’s to change the world.
What I actually do for the company: I am the Employee Experience Manager, so my role is very much all about people. So, it covers areas like onboarding, immigration, learning and development, such as creating career paths and personal development plans, which is a current project of mine. Developing learning resource portals for all our Lefties to help develop their skills in areas such as one-on-ones, emotional intelligence, how to give and receive feedback, things like that. And an important area is focusing on ensuring our Lefties feel valued and invested in the work, in their work, via employee relations so being aware of the posts of the team members in the office to creating and championing program initiatives. I could go on…
YS: That’s amazing. So it’s about connecting people.
TT: Very much so.
YS: And I just have to say, I love how you refer to everybody as Lefties.
TT: We are, yeah, we’re all Lefties.
YS: It’s like everybody is part of this big community.
TT: It is and one of our core values is all about community, so community is very important to us. Not just external community, but in-house with all our Lefties here.
YS: That’s wonderful. And so, how long have you been at the company for?
TT: I’ve been there for 9, 10 months, so June will be my one-year anniversary.
YS: Oh, that’s exciting! Congratulations!
TT: It’s flown by. Thank you!
YS: One thing that really struck me about Left was that it has a 97% voluntary retention rate, which sound incredible, but can you tell me what that means exactly?
TT: It means that people want to stay! Once a Lefty, always a Lefty. But joking aside, we are very proud of our retention. We say at Left: “We are Left and we do things right,” and, in fact, we’ve got the stamp to prove it, being a B Corp. But what that also means is that we can use technology and marketing to make an impact on the world around us. And those that join us have the opportunity to make their mark, which is another one of our core values. So, make their mark on the world, and that’s one of the main reasons that makes our Lefties stay. We are slightly different to other tech companies in terms of location, as we are not in downtown Vancouver, so it’s quite a unique location, and in the burbs like I said earlier, and that can pose some challenges with recruitment. But when we do find the right people, they stay.
As Lefties, we’ve got a lot of great things we pride on, besides our awards. We have a ton of benefits, we have flexible hours, we have a work from home option, we have parental leave top-ups. The culture is superb in my opinion. We do all kinds of different events, we’ve recently started our own Toastmasters club, we have house events, all kinds of exciting things that go on. But we also have an award-winning community engagement program, which is important to a lot of our Lefties. We do everything that we can to support the part of our local community down to buying local, and as part of that, as a Lefty, we have unlimited community hours. So, one of our core values is Impact Your Community, so you can take the day or a couple of hours, whatever you need to go out there and help in your community. All that we ask in return for doing that is that, you just make a positive impact and take some pictures, ideally wearing your Lefty shirt.
TT: Representing, indeed. We also volunteer as a company, so we do things like shoreline cleanups, we’ve adopted a street in front of the office, so we actually go around at lunchtimes, or whenever we’ve got time, we go out for a chat, just gather all the equipment and let’s go and clean up. We also volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House every year and various other things -- we have a culture club, so the culture club meets every month and we go through different activities or things that we hear that our Lefties are interested in doing and we’ll try to look into that. Another thing that is important to us is also work-life balance, it’s super important, and yes, we’d like people to be in the office most of the time because we are proud of the team culture, and our Lefties can add to that, but we also need time to be part of our families and be part of the community, whether it be day care drop off or volunteering your time in your kid’s school, whatever is important to you. We’re all unique, we’re all different, and we want to support you in doing that.
And our office space, our office space is pretty neat. Each room or wall or space has a story to tell, but it’s better to come and experience that in person. We actually love visitors and sharing our story and our culture, and we encourage anyone who’d like to learn more about us to come by and say hi. And another great thing that we have at Left are our two amazing, four-legged greeters. We have Django the German Shepherd and Milo the Golden Retriever.
YS: Aww, that’s so nice.
TT: Yeah, it is. It’s so cute, so nice!
YS: You know what, though, it’s true that to have an animal around just makes your quality of life better.
TT: It does! Many cuddles.
YS: That’s wonderful. And you know, going back quickly just to work-life balance, it’s so important and it’s wonderful for a company to recognize that, that you know people do have families that they need to take care of or they have other responsibilities or, you know, self-care, it’s very important. You can’t bring your best self to work, really, unless you’ve taken care of yourself.
TT: Exactly. We want people to be their authentic selves in the office and, you know, we all have lives and things going on outside, so if your kid has got a recital, don’t just turn up like 10 minutes before all hot and sweaty – take the afternoon, spend some time with them and then afterwards take them out for ice cream, do whatever you need to do.
YS: I mean, you sort of outlined it already because Left sounds like a wonderful place to work, but, can you tell me a little bit more about why you think the company does indeed have such a high retention rate?
TT: Yeah, yeah. So, I just spoke to some of our perks and benefits, we do have a lot more, but one of the main things is our core values. They allow us to convey what we stand for as a company. So, being open and transparent with regards to the recruitment process, we get people who want to join Left because they too are values aligned. And our values are baked into our DNA. They go into every decision, they are our North Star, or guiding light, if you will. We try to keep this alive by various means, so for example, in our kitchen, we have a huge chalk wall which features our core values, and this is actually designed and created by one of our Lefties – Jenna, she’s one of our very talented designers. We do have 10 core values, but there’s only actually nine values on the wall, because one of them is Failure is an Option. So, it’s kind of a little bit of a joke in there.
YS: Yeah, it’s important to remember as well, you know, because I feel like so often we can just, in general, in life, you can get so caught up with trying to not fail, but in reality, that’s a very important part of a journey and of success because, you know, you have to take one step at a time.
TT: Yeah, no one’s perfect and we at Left as well, especially in RightMesh, we are doing something that no one has ever done before, so there isn’t any written rules or practices. So, we will fail, but we’ll learn from that experience as we go on. Another thing that we actually do is we have a Legendary Lefty program. This is where Lefties nominate their peers when they see them living and breathing one of our core values. So, we have another wall in the kitchen and we have 10 sets of postcards, each line represents one of our core values and you can write the name of the Lefty that you’d like to recognize, along with the reason. And then at the end of the month, a Legendary Lefty is chosen. They get to win prizes such as the coveted Legendary Lefty parking spot and they get to spin the Wheel of Destiny, and have a light saber for a month, and that glory is carried for the entire following month. We also now have houses. Six in total: Emerald, Ruby, Amethyst, Sapphire, Onyx, and Amber. Go team Amber!
And these were created during the company’s retreat last year. And this came about because back in 2017, the company actually doubled in size. With the increase in head count, we moved from a single group to departments, and in order to attain that close-knit culture, we decided to implement this house system that would give Lefties and different departments the opportunities to team up and interact. So, the retreat was actually Harry Potter-themed, everyone was sorted into their houses, so we had the sorting hat and everything, and the teams got involved with a variety of hilarious activities which included water, wands, spells, dragons, and quidditch, but it brought everyone together and it was the best three days.
YS: Oh, that sounds like so much fun.
TT: It was, yeah.
YS: In what ways do you think culture and core values then help make an employee want to stay at a company?
TT: To me, it is about culture. Your company culture is what drives satisfaction and vice versa. So many people these days are not just looking for a job, they are actually looking for a role that fits them, who they are, in terms of their personal values, company culture, diversity at the company, and somewhere where they can, like I said earlier, be their authentic selves.
So, companies need to walk the talk and live their core values that they’ve defined, every day, otherwise, they’re just words. Surveys often state that a competitive compensation, competitive benefits, and perks are key drivers to employee staying at a company, and, of course, these are important, and, yes, you have to be competitive in those areas – but they alone won’t make employees feel satisfied in their jobs or compel them to stay with a company for a long term.
There is a lot of research around workplace happiness and it’s shown that job satisfaction from these tangible things like having pride in your organization, being treated with fairness and respect, being engaged in interesting and meaningful work, and basically building a positive workplace relationship, has a bigger impact. So, your workplace values are your guiding principle. Your organization’s workplace values set the tone for your company’s culture, they identify what your organization, as a whole, cares about, and it’s important that your people’s values align with those.
Even though you can’t control every factor that contributes to your employee satisfaction at work, it is possible to create a workplace that allows productivity and positivity to flourish. And when this does happen, people understand one another, everyone does the right things for the right reasons, and this common purpose and understanding helps people build great working relationships. Values alignment also helps the organization as a whole to achieve its core mission.
The flip side of that, when values are out of alignment, people work towards different goals, with different intentions and with different outcomes, and this could actually damage working relationships, productivity, job satisfaction and creative potential. Unfortunately I think there are still some people and companies out there that don’t believe in core values and that they’re just something that companies put on their wall for when people walk through the offices, but that’s because some companies don’t take them seriously, or put them into practice, or they may not even know where to start, how to go about creating them.
So, today I think that more and more people are talking about their company values and for good reason, because like I mentioned earlier, core values are the DNA of your company’s culture, and they’re there whether you put them on the wall or not. So, every company has a culture, either by default or by design, so when companies don’t pay attention or guide the culture, the wrong values can become ingrained and employees can learn by observation. Things like a culture of secrecy or placing blame or cutting corners. But when you take control and shape the behavior of employees, you need to set core values deliberately, take them seriously, and operationalize them. Having them without acting on them are actually worse than not having them at all.
YS: Absolutely. It’s about having people on the same page and, you know, understanding a one common place where everybody’s coming from.
TT: I know it’s a cliché, but…
YS: Yeah, but it’s very true. Yeah, absolutely. So, core values and the benefits like you were talking about are obviously big factors to help employees be happy at their companies and want to stay, but what other factors do you think can help make someone want to keep working at a company as well?
TT: So, in my opinion, employers need to create an environment where employees feel connected. Feel connected to the organization and have that positive work experience. You can provide your employees the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help them guide the course of the company. Benefits such as clear and frequent communication of company happenings – so that’s individual, departmental, big company discussions – they can make all the difference in employee happiness.
At Left, we actually have a multitude of avenues to share information. Every morning we have our 10-10, which is our company huddle, and we have monthly town halls or AMAs, and for that, we actually use an app that integrates with Slack called Jellyfish. And Jellyfish is an anonymous tool where we can, people can post questions, everyone can see those questions, and they can have the opportunity to either comment on them themselves, give a thumbs up that they are interested in learning more about that question, thumbs down now they are not really too bothered about that question. That works really well, we introduced this last month and we had the highest level of number of questions and posts to our leadership team.
YS: That’s great. Probably the anonymous factor helps as well, because there’s no judgement, right? There’s no pressure.
TT: Yup. Yeah, it just opens the door a little bit wider. We also provide developmental support and I think that is so important these days, as well. You should be continuously learning. So, things like training opportunities and creating career paths and individual career plans, that another thing I’m working on right now. And some career mentoring, having a regular one on ones with the manager or team lead, and training on how to do those and effectively from both sides. Obviously, I’ve said this, promoting of positive work environment, so we have our values wall, we have our Legendary Lefties, and all those goodies that I mentioned earlier.
Also, encouraging cross departmental collaboration, and not just in terms of the projects, but socially. So another app that we use that integrates with Slack is Donut, and Donut is for coffee chats, so it pairs you up with someone in a different department and we ask that you can either go out for a coffee, you can go out for lunch, go out for a beer, whatever you want to do and learn about each other.
YS: That’s really cool!
TT: Yeah, that’s how it happens every month.
YS: Oh, that’s awesome. I love the names of these apps too, they’re so cute.
TT: I know. It’s awesome. And the big thing as well about we do and I encourage companies to do is celebrate your winnings, no matter how small. So, on Fridays we actually have a beer o’clock and before we break up for the weekend, everyone shares a win. It can be a work win or it can be a personal win, and it just gets you to reflect on your week and what’s important and, again, sharing that information with the rest of your Lefties, and it’s really cool to see what people have achieved that week.
YS: Absolutely. It’s a nice way to cultivate a positive environment as well too.
TT: Yeah. I love it.
YS: That’s great.
TT: But with all that being said, at the end of the day, your team members are your most valuable asset, and so ask for their feedback regularly, let them know how you intend to apply that feedback, and encourage and empower your employees to lead. And reward their efforts. But if they fail, challenge them to try again, it’s okay.
In terms of feedback, the ability to understand employee concern is important, but it’s what you do after, that’s critical to retention. So, you should always be transparent by sharing what you’ve learned, a course of action for addressing the issue, and transparent communication and a simple acknowledgement that “we heard you” can go a long way.
YS: Yeah, it’s important for everybody to feel like they have a voice. So now, on that note, what tried and true strategies would you recommend companies use to improve retention?
TT: Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer to this. There isn’t a cookie cutter strategy that’s going to help everyone. But to me, it’s simple: you talk to your employees and find out what they want. What’s working, what do you need to work on. Basically, what should you stop, start, and continue doing. And each company is unique and so the solutions need to be tailored to the needs of your employees and the company within reason, and hopefully some of the ideas I’ve shared to you should help you decide there.
YS: For sure. You mentioned stop, start, and keep, that’s something that we do at Outback as well. Another thing that we do here at Outback are stay interviews, where Human Resources sits down one-on-one with a valued employee just to learn more about the things that make them happy and make them enjoy their role and what makes them want to continue to stay in their current role. So, what other tools or methods would you recommend that can measure employee satisfaction?
TT: So, it’s great that you do stay Interviews. I totally encourage those and it’s nice to see you doing so keep that up! But I would also say, don’t forget about everyone else. So, especially if there aren’t any other avenues to speak, such as, not many companies still do one-on-ones, so open up some avenues for everyone to speak up or have a voice like you said earlier. So, I do believe that all employees need the chance to speak up, because, in the end, there is a reason that an employee isn’t shining as brightly as another and they might not even know how to ask for help. You know, it’s quite daunting, especially if you are new or if you’ve been there for a while and things are changing, to ask for help, and we need to recognize that and open those doors, to provide them to say what they need to say and in a safe environment.
At Left, some of the things that we used to do, we used to do quarterly check-ins with everyone, but as we grew, obviously it became apparent it’s not sustainable, isn’t a sustainable practice, we got too large. So now that we do have a much larger team, we’ve moved to regular office hours, so we do that twice a week, but obviously, our Lefties know that they can come speak to the Employee Experience team anytime. We also do regular one-on-ones, so that’s managers and their teams. And for every new Lefty that joins, we carry out a 30, 60, 90-day check-ins as well as putting them up with a peer to show them the ropes. They go for lunch on the first day with an individual and be there to answer any questions, basically, help them integrate into Lefty life.
We also use another tool, it’s called Perked!, which we use for our bi-weekly post checks, rather than an annual engagement survey. The reason we do this and use Perked is because it provides with real time feedback that we can action right away, and it allows us to stay agile in our culture development. It’s also totally anonymous, which, like I said earlier, opens the doors a little bit wider for open and honest feedback and dialogue.
YS: Yeah, I mean, sometimes it can be hard to talk in general, if there’s something bothering you, let alone in a work situation where, you know, for whatever reason you might be intimidated by your leader or by a co-worker or anything, it’s so important to feel like you can have a safe space to talk to somebody and, you know, check in and let someone know where you’re at.
TT: Yeah, just give different options too: come and have a chat, we can go for walks, use Slack message, you know, I’ll meet you at the end of the street if you really need to. But just being mindful of the different people that you have in your teams, you know, you’ve got your introverts, you’ve got your extroverts, you’ve got people from different cultures, different nationalities, you know, we all perceive things differently, so, just being more mindful about that and trying to, I could say, tailor to their needs, which in the end, just helps us to grow as a company.
YS: Absolutely. So now, we mentioned a moment ago, stay interviews, but now what about exit interviews? What ways are those valuable in measuring employee satisfaction and improving a role for future candidates and also enhancing company culture?
TT: Okay, so, employee retention is obviously a critical issue as companies compete for top talent, especially in tech in Vancouver, for us in particular. So firstly, we shouldn’t be waiting for someone to leave to be having those conversations. In the first place, they should be a given. They should be continuously happening so we can understand why people may be frustrated or why they are looking to leave and see if we can, you know, come to some agreement and help them stay. That’s why our satisfaction and our retention rate is so high because we do have those conversations, we know what’s happening and more people are feeling that we act upon the feedback, that we get back.
The bottom line is that by focusing on employee retention, organizations will retain the talent and motivate the employees who truly want to be a part of a company and those who have focus on contributing to the organization’s overall success.
But to answer your question, exit interviews are very valuable in terms of understanding what led someone to leave – and I don’t mean just asking the questions, collecting their information, and filing it away, never to be seen again. But to truly analyze the information that is being covered, share the data and follow it with action.
So, skilled employees, are the asset that drives organization’s success, so companies must learn from them why they stay, why they leave, and how the organization needs to change. And so, a thoughtful exit interview process can create a constant flow of feedback on all three fronts, and if done well, the exit interview – it can be a face-to-face conversation or questionnaire or a survey or telephone call or whatever works best for the organization, can be a combination of those.
By using those, it can catalyze leader’s listening skills and it can reveal what does or does not work inside the organization and highlight some hidden challenges and opportunities and generate essential competitive intelligence. It can promote engagement and retention by signaling to your employees that their views actually do matter, and it can turn passionate employees into corporate ambassadors for years to come.
YS: Yeah, communication is so important across the board, I think. Actually, I was on LinkedIn the other day and I saw this really interesting post by somebody – I think somebody on my network liked it, so it came up on my news feed – but this woman was saying how she, at her first job, had almost got fired because she was withdrawn and she wasn’t doing very well and she was calling in sick a lot, and you know, she hadn’t talked to anybody about what was really going on. And, finally, I think it was her department leader who pulled her aside and just asked her, “Hey, are you okay?” and it turned out she was actually coming out of an abusive relationship. So, her personal life was not okay. And so then, the department leader sort of went up for bat for her, and was like, “No, you know what, she’s got something going on at home and something going on in her personal life.” She still recognized the value that she could contribute to the company but allowed her to, you know, feel safe that she could talk to her if she needed something.
TT: Someone there to listen.
YS: There’s somebody there to listen.
TT: Another piece of advice is, it shouldn’t just be up to the management to do that. If you see a co-worker or your friend struggling, go outside, take them for a walk, just give them a shoulder to lean on, and if you need help in the company and ask them to come to speak.
YS: Yeah, definitely, so important.
TT: Yeah, we all go through things.
YS: Oh yeah, yes, we’re all human. Exactly. So now, I’ve seen this statistic a lot, going on a different note here, and I was interested to ask you about this question because often millennials are named as the job-hopping generation and there’s research out there that suggests that they’re restless because they’re looking for a job that feels worthwhile to them. So, does a high turnover rate necessarily indicate that the company is a bad place to work or could it just be the sign of the times?
TT: I think we could do another podcast just on this question.
YS: It’s a loaded question.
TT: It is very much a loaded question, so I’m going to keep it short and sweet. So, yes, it is the sign of the times. The world has changed, so I do think it is the sign of the times to some degree. I remember when I first started out, while we were lucky enough to find a job back then, it was something that you were going to be in for a long term or for the remainder of your career. I was at school, I found my first role, I just needed a one week’s work experience while I was at school and I was there for over eight years, and I thought I was going to be there forever.
But these days, the opportunities are greater. The world is big and the world really is your oyster. There are so many opportunities out there. So, in terms of job hopping, I believe that’s generally defined as spending less than two years in a position and I also read somewhere, but I can’t remember who said it or where I saw it, but I do remember this, it says “Think of job hopping like aspirin. A little can be beneficial and healthy, too much can be really bad for you.”
YS: That’s a good analogy!
TT: Yeah, I wish I could remember where I saw that. So, to me, exactly how often you can hop before you tarnish your resume depends on the industry and the market. Everything is different. But to a certain point, some hiring managers aren’t even going to want to talk to you. So, for example, if there’s a shortage of talent in the market, job-hoppers will still find plenty of opportunities, but when the market shifts and there’s more talent available than there is jobs, the candidates who are the most stable will be the ones who are going to be called first. And, like you said, millennials are characterized as entitled job-hoppers and that could be true for some, but in reality, is it that this group is just not engaged at work?
So, at Left, we do have quite a few millennials working for us and they actually love working for us and they want to stay. Our young developers, for example, building something that no one has done before. They’re asked for their input and they’re learning so much, so they’re developing constantly, and they probably wouldn’t get this exposure or this experience anywhere else, so we are quite unique in that area.
But I also think that many millennials really don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay. So, when they see what happens to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it. And so, while millennials can come across as wanting more and more, the reality might be is that they just want a job that feels worthwhile, and maybe they’ll just keep looking until they find it.
YS: Yeah, absolutely! I think that sort of hits the nail on the head – I mean, I think, at least – if you’re not engaged at your job and then you see something that sounds more exciting, why would you not take it? You know, and then there’s this whole thing of, you know, “Life is so short” and you want to enjoy the place that you are spending most of your time at, and if I’m not happy at this one job, why would I not look for something else, and despite if it, you know, makes me look unstable on my resume?
TT: Yeah, you have to be happy with what you are doing and what you believe in.
YS: Yeah, absolutely. Well thank you so much Tracey, it was so lovely chatting with you.
TT: Thank you! Thank you!
YS: This was a pleasure, thank you for taking the time.
TT: Thank you so much.
YS: And that’s it for this episode of Outback Talks. Thank you so much again to Tracey for taking the time to be on our show today and thank you for listening.
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