Work-Life Balance: The Bottom Line

Today’s work force is riding a tidal wave of work-life trends as concepts like “mindfulness” and “nap rooms” become main stream. Many companies are redefining parental leave (for Dad’s, adopters, or non-birth parents), and volunteer days become the norm. The pattern here is making room for what happens in life and allowing for work-life balance, but three questions linger:

  1. “What do our employees really want?” (A lot)
  2. “How much is this going to cost me? (Not much)
  3. “Can employees doing ‘less work’ really get more done?” (No, but read on)

To begin, work-life balance is more than nap pods and personal days off. At its core, the notion of work-life balance reflects an employer’s support for their employees well-being and a respect for their life outside of work. It goes beyond policies; it really is about culture. We all know someone who has taken a job because of the great vacation package only to find they had no time to use it. In fact, almost half of Americans do not use all their vacation days!

Company cultures that support work-life balance project security to employees. It provides fulfillment for workers by allowing them to manage their personal lives so that they come to work focused and ready to perform.  Do you think an Assistant Manager who sent a sick child to school because he had no personal days is providing his full attention? Or that a project lead who commutes 2 hours each way every day (because there are no flexible work arrangements) has the focus to catch every mistake? According to most established behavioral science, the answer is a “not a freaking chance”.

We bring our whole selves to work (distractions of the morning last all day) and leading companies already recognize that. Those that have not, will find attracting new hires much harder. Getting top talent through the door requires real work-life balance options. Running existing employees in high gear for months is now a certifiable lose-lose situation. Productivity plummets after a 50 hour work week and, even worse, drive absenteeism and turnover. Employee ROI crumbles under the weight of overtime.

Solutions come in many forms. Part-time arrangements, job sharing, in-office perks. What is best for your bottom line?

STOP. Ask employees what they want first. Prioritize, start one-at-a time, and cut anything they don’t want. The best execution on increasing (actual and the perception of) work-life balance is a supportive culture from managers. Will you convince all managers this is a good idea? Maybe not. The alternative is losing another good employee.

Finally, your people will not likely get more work done. They will just get exactly the same amount done. And appreciate you for it.


Posted: 9/21/2015

Build the Perfect Exit Interview, Build a Better Workplace

Done right, an intelligent exit interview strategy can offer you a wealth of information on your staffing needs.

I know…you don’t do exit interviews.  Well, despite the escalating cost of employee turnover, most companies don’t. The common reasons are:

  1. I already know why people leave
  2. People don’t give honest answers
  3. We don’t have the time
  4. I am not sure what to ask, or
  5. Who needs them? The people are gone anyway.

Exit Interview Return on Investment

“By constantly evaluating and renewing the workplace, you’ll decrease hiring and training costs and reduce employee turnover.” –  Chason Hecht, President, Retensa

None of the aforementioned reasons equate to the tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, a company can save on employee turnover, absenteeism, and productivity from performing exit interviews. Losing 1 employee can cost a company a minimum of 50% up to 300% of an employee’s annual salary.  So exit interviews, which cost $30 to $150 each, provide one of the highest sources of Return on Investment (ROI) you can get from an employee program.

Done right, you can gather new solutions to recruitment, management, orientation, as well as how to best meet the needs of the person filling their position.  By constantly evaluating and renewing the workplace you’ll decrease hiring and training costs, and reduce employee turnover.

What Makes a Good Exit Interview Strategy?

Exit interviews are a formal set of questions asked of departing employees that serve as a barometer for the current work environment.  The best information will be from soon-to-depart employees who feel comfortable expressing how they feel, and trust those they are speaking with to listen confidentially. Whoever administers the exit interview, they should query five key areas:

  1. Reasons they joined/liked working there (e.g. questions about salary, work environment, administration, what did they like most about their job, etc.).
  2. Reasons they are leaving (same as above, plus management relationship and what they liked least).
  3. Suggestions for future changes (e.g. questions about training a replacement, challenges, improving communication, different reward system, etc.).
  4. Verifying the understanding between employer and employee (e.g. concerning insurance, materials/supplies, confidentiality agreements, keys, etc.).
  5. Open Ended Opportunity.  Let employees be expressive, it provides closure.  People don’t quit a firm to play in the NFL.  Ex-employees stay in the industry after leaving to be a potential client, vendor, partner, or competitor.  In every case, it’s a good investment to part on good terms.  You can always use a strategic partner and you don’t want to add emotional fuel to your competition.

Upon receiving the information, the provider should organize it into a format you can easily use to make real-world changes.  Once several departures have provided similar responses, it is time to make a change. Implementing the change is where a company reaps the benefits of exit interviews.  It shows your existing employees the company values their opinions and works to provide solutions.  Exit interviews provide suggestions and propel change, and that gives the business the feedback needed to move forward.

Exit Interview Outsourcing

Finally, a word about outsourcing…During in-person interviews, especially with the boss, employees will dodge an honest response to keep a good reference. As a result, a company will not receive helpful insights on how to improve, and may be falsely led to believe their company has no areas to improve upon.  For this reason anonymity in exit interviews is crucial.  Outsourcing exit interviews ensures honesty and saves money. A good third party can get your employee to open up, which is much harder to achieve if conducted within the business.

For more information about how Retensa can assist your organization to build the perfect exit interview and boost employee retention, email

Supervisory Approaches Impact Voluntary Turnover

Leadership styles impact employees’ attitudes toward your company and the level of voluntary turnover that occurs.

“For the most part unhappy employees do not leave companies- they leave bosses. [T]he supervisor is an icon for the company as a whole…” – Stan Beecham & Michael Grant, Supervision (June 2003, Vol. 64)

Supervisors may not realize that they wield powerful influences on their employees’ attitudes toward your company. A lack of dialogue in this relationship can influence competent employees to leave. With reduced resources and tighter budgets, supervisors who communicate effectively and honestly with direct reports establish more productive workplaces and reduce the cost of turnover. If there is an absence of attentiveness to the concerns of employees, poor performance may result. Consequently, a dangerous spiral follows. Failing to identify the reasons for poor performances, supervisors are reinforcing behaviors that result in undesirable outcomes.

Feedback of individual performance, based on objective criteria, should be given regularly. If feedback is given haphazardly talented employees may feel demoralized and poor performers may assume that their work is acceptable.

Management Behavior of a High Performing Company

Progressive employers are beginning to hold managers accountable for retaining talented employees. In doing so, managers will focus on relationships as essential for their success as well as for the success of the company. Careful assessment of direct reports’ work-related behaviors and addressing their performance alleviates tension and facilitates desired outcomes. Both formal and informal performance assessments are being used to maintain productive relationships. Regular discussions of employees’ ideas about the organization can give supervisors insight into the departure drivers of each direct report. This dynamic gives supervisors an opportunity to explore their employees’ career goals and initiatives. Proactive exchanges with employees create the ideal opportunities to demonstrate how the employees’ goals align with that of the organization.

A trusting relationship between a supervisor and employee is vital in shaping how the employee views the organization. Consistently behaving with integrity will cue your direct reports that the same is expected of them; failing to follow-through with actions promised to your employees will devalue their relationship with you and the company. Giving employees meaningful work and the autonomy to complete assignments is a clear sign of your confidence in them. Conversely, micromanaging employees can indicate that your have little confidence in their potential and spur voluntary turnover.