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70% of my employees leave within 18 months

                                                    Why do you want to leave us?

A couple of weeks ago a college mate came to town. It had been a few years since we had met up and we chatted about a lot of things well into the night. He sought my advice on a few things. Maybe he felt that I had learnt something from the large number of mistakes I had made.

His business was growing by leaps and bounds and he had clients in most major Indian cities. Yet he had major concerns. He said the work was draining him of his energy and his peace of mind. He was candid enough to say that he could not manage his growth and he was worried, very worried.

In my book of experiences; "It is a wise person who knows himself."

I had been there and done that, and I could only appreciate the gravity of his situation when he said that he had a 70% attrition rate at his Delhi facilities. He kept muttering " I am doing something wrong. Whatever was the reason, he was losing;
  • Goodwill with customers
  • Lots of money in training people only to see them leave
  • He was strengthening his competition who got skilled & trained manpower.
On probing further I found that though he was a system integrator for a range of world class brands, and had a huge market across the breadth of India.

Though a brilliant engineer, unfortunately he ran his organisation like a 'Lala company'.
'Lala' is a North Indian term for father or the old man normally signifying the boss or 'the man'. This is a good management style when there is an organisation with a patriarch, and most suitable for stable business requiring low technology and knowledge inputs from employees.

Highly centralised with a patriarch at the very centre with all powers and decision making reserved for the boss, they conduct their business like a Maestro conducts an orchestra. They know what they want each member to do, sometimes how to do it and when.

The problems arise when the organisation forays into areas where there is more intellectual input required than the old man can provide or when the operations begin to get decentralised at several locations etc.

Now for a company working on medium to high technology off site at many locations and requiring constant innovation, the organisation was creaking under the heavy load made worse by high sales growth.

I asked him of he had ever conducted an exit interview with employees at the time of their departure from the company and as expected he had never thought it necessary.
He was looking for solutions in far away places when he should look at them under his nose.

An employee leaving an organisation will be more candid and honest about issues at an exit interview. This however often leaves a bad taste in the mouth as no one welcomes their faults being pointed out to them.

The exit interview serves three purposes;
  1. It points out weaknesses in the organisation's working 
  2. Weaknesses in the individual 
  3. Possible solutions to prevent recurrence of such problems. 

The first step in solving a problem is recognising and defining what the problem is. Only after that can solutions be found.

After introducing exit interviews my friend now knows what the problems are, but is still contemplating what to do about them. In the meanwhile he loses sleep and money.


  1. Ashwini Dasgupta said;

    Good read Gurvinder!
    In my humble opinion an exit interview, if conducted skillfully and compassionately can also aid in pointing out to the individual certain aspects of the company philosophy that he might not have imbibed in the true sense, causing him to have been a misfit. It also sends people out back in the work force with a positive image of the company.

    Employees leaving with rancour damages the company's prospects of attracting new and able talent in ways that cannot be quantified. After an interview like this, the exiting employee must benefit as much as the company does.


  2. Dear Ash,

    I agree that the separation between people need not be antagonistic. I like your thoughts that the exit interview can be converted into a positive exercise.

    Is it not a weakness of the organisation that they were unable to get the person to imbibe the company philosophy (assuming the co has a guiding philosophy)?
    Apparently the failure could be in;
    • The selection process (getting an unsuitable candidate)
    • The induction process, (no one tried to induct the newcomer or the employee)
    • The reporting relationship (the employee had bad chemistry with boss or the colleagues)
    • The work assignment (employee was recruited for purpose ‘A’ but assigned to ‘B’ work and that caused him or her to fail)

    Many folks particularly youngsters take up jobs only on what they will be paid.

    Clueless are they when they join and clueless they remain when they leave.

    I guess the exit interview may help such people to ask themselves and seek answers for questions that should have been asked a long time ago.

    Cheers & thanks for your thoughts.



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