In recent times, employers within the UK’s retail sector have been grappling with a formidable challenge – deciphering the reasons behind the unexplained departure of some of their most valuable employees.

In a newly conducted study, an unexpected offender has been identified as a contributing factor to this worrisome trend. The omission of formal exit interviews for employees on their way out.

The report by Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group sheds light on this issue, indicating that over 60% of employees in the UK retail sector were not invited to exit interviews when resigning from their positions.

Áine Fanning, Managing Director at Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group, comments, “There’s a clear disconnect between why employers in the retail sector think their employees are leaving and the actual reason behind employee exits.”

Missed opportunities

The survey, conducted among 1,500 ex-employees who resigned in the last five years, not only exposes the lack of exit interviews but also highlights a missed opportunity for valuable employee engagement.

Shockingly, 42% of employees in the retail sector were not asked for any feedback at all upon leaving, leaving a void that could have been filled with crucial insights.

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“Our survey revealed that nearly a third of ex-employees felt their feedback would not make a difference to their workplace. If companies make a concerted effort to better understand why employees are leaving and take meaningful action to retain them, employers could gain an edge in the race to attract, develop, and retain the talent they need to create a thriving organisation,’’ says Áine Fanning.

Online exposure

The repercussions of neglecting exit interviews extend beyond the workplace, as employee feedback finds its way onto public review platforms such as Glassdoor and Comparably.

An alarming 67% of workers in the retail sector have utilised these platforms to review their previous employers. This trend not only exposes issues publicly but also reflects negatively on the employer, with a third of the reviews carrying a negative sentiment.

“By skipping the process of an exit interview, employers are missing the chance to resolve the issues and concerns of their workforce internally,” warn the authors of the study in a release.

Employee willingness to share

Contrary to the assumption that employees may be hesitant to share negative views, the majority in the retail sector indicated they would have been comfortable providing feedback on crucial aspects.

These include company culture (74%), mental health implications of the role (71%), their line manager (77%), colleagues and peers (69%), and their salary (69%).

“The majority of employees working in the UK’s retail sector said they would have felt comfortable enough to share negative views and opinions with their employer, if they were asked,” the survey revealed.

Retention opportunities

As the report unfolds, it becomes evident that the exit process is not just a conclusion but an opportunity.

Over half (56%) of retail sector workers admitted they would have considered a counteroffer during the exit process. This showcases the potential for employers not only to gather valuable feedback but also to retain their top-performing talent.

“With over half (56%) of retail sector workers revealing they would have considered a counteroffer during the process of exiting their last role, employers in the industry should consider the exit process not only as a valuable chance to gain employee feedback but also an opportunity to retain their top-performing talent,” urge the researchers.

The survey was conducted among 1,500 UK adults who have resigned from a job role within the last five years. Polling began in February 2023.

As the spotlight shifts to the UK’s retail sector, the report from Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group serves as a wake-up call for employers.

Understanding the reasons behind employee departures, bridging the gap in communication, and leveraging exit interviews as a retention strategy could prove instrumental in creating a workplace that not only attracts but also retains top talent.

The ball is in the employer’s court to transform the exit process from a conclusion into a strategic opportunity for organisational growth.