I originally sat at my laptop to pen (type) a piece for business leaders about the phenomenon that is The Great Resignation.  However, if you are a business leader, you are possibly overwhelmed by how many people are already talking about it.  Everyone in your team is about to resign is what many would have you believe.

Suffice to say that team turnover is expensive and team retention is really important, especially considering the shortages in some areas of talent.  Your team members, especially the ones you most want to keep, are likely being proactively called by recruiters to see if they are interested in a new role. 

With this in mind, I have instead focused this article towards a subtle and often forgotten element of team retention – discovering how things really are for your team members so you can make better retention decisions.

It’s about effective communication, right?

There is almost no problem that can’t be uncovered and solved through great communication practices.  It’s for this reason that concepts like psychological safety have received so much attention in recent times.  The basic premise is that if you create an environment where it is okay to speak about anything, especially problems and mistakes, teams function and perform significantly better because they are working from the same truth, the way things really are.  This explains why our team communication workshops are continuing to rise in popularity with our customers.

However, there is a reality that all business leaders have to consider.  Humans have the ability to deceive and hide our truth from others.  That’s not to say we are all liars all of the time but, a simple example is when we tell people things are okay when in fact they are not.  Sometimes the consequences of being totally honest are really not worth it.  You can probably think of a time where this applied to you, and so it is easy to assume that some people in your team might also do this from time to time.  Sometimes, people find it extremely difficult to convey their thoughts in a face-to-face meeting.  They aren’t comfortable doing it.  It is for this reason that we recommend having in place several approaches to gathering feedback from team members.  Employee Surveys are a great example, however as we will discover now, they don’t always reliably uncover the way things really are.

Your employee survey data may not reveal the whole story

As someone who has been around online surveys for a long time, they are certainly a useful way to collect valuable information from people, especially when team numbers are large and when people are dispersed geographically.  Sometimes, people just need to think about their answers and are often willing to type things they aren’t comfortable saying in person.  For this reason, they are a decent safety net to collect information about how things really are.

However, they can also create a problem in that they provide an illusion of knowing how things really are.  Most employee surveys are heavily oriented towards quantitative questions (think 1-5 agreement scale).  Some suppliers will even provide you with a list of THE questions to ask and will use terms like valid and reliable to demonstrate that their question set is indeed the only one worth asking.

What is often forgotten is that by asking certain questions, you are excluding others.  In other words, by asking specific pre-formatted questions, the answers will have a certain context to them.  Consider someone giving their answer to ‘My supervisor provides me with clear instructions’ on a scale from 1 to 5.  And then consider how it would differ if they were asked to describe how they receive their instructions at work (ie, maybe they go to their colleagues rather than the supervisor).  The first will provide a specific answer, the second will provide far more valuable context that will likely be closer to the way things really are.

It is very easy to accidentally develop an incorrect view of what things are really like for team members if you place too much emphasis on employee survey data alone.

True discovery is what it is all about

The reality is that discovering the way things really requires a mixed mode of approaches, from speaking with people directly through to surveys that contain various open-ended questions, through to embedding process into the weekly ‘drumbeat’ of your team to elicit information that might be important.  This has been the basis of how we help our customers retain their key team members and we find it to be a very effective starting point.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you discover the way things really are for your team members, you can contact me, Stephen Cushion or Tamika Ryan at any time.

General Manager – Insights & Innovation

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