By Paul Walsh

Can the HR department be effective without knowing the real reason people leave the organisation?

In essence the HR department is about attracting, developing, engaging and retaining employees. To do this effectively we need to know what type of person we need, what will attract potential candidates and to determine their development needs and discover why they leave.

This last question, why do they leave, is absolutely crucial to all elements of HR. If you have successfully attracted and developed, it is a huge waste of effort and resources for your employees, especially the talent, if they then leave you.

So why are people leaving?

In the Gulf region there are, generally, 3 reasons given for a resignation:

  1. Salary
  2. Career Opportunity
  3. (The ever popular!) Personal Reasons

I want to deal, in this article, with reasons 1 and 2 – Salary and Career Opportunity. Reason 3 is, basically a trust issue.


I would suggest that Salary and Career Opportunity are not the reason people are leaving. These answers to your Exit Interview are not reasons for leaving they are the outcomes. We need to measure the input that led to the eventual outcome … a resignation. To successfully retain staff we need to be aware of the Input to their decision to leave, not the outcome.

Not many people will leave you for a lower salary, and fewer still will leave for a lower position. If they are doing that then you are really in trouble! The problem for HR is that we are rarely made aware of the time involved when it comes to somebody leaving.

How long does it take to secure a new job?

The answer is, of course, “It Depends”, but depending on the economic conditions, the Industry sector and your particular specialism, it could be anything from 3 months to 1 year.

What we have to do is go back in time and discover the Trigger that made this employee begin his search for a new job. Why did she decide to leave?

There was an incident, an event, something happened that made your employee start looking in the papers and logging on to Job search Websites.

Was it the Boss? Did he:

  1. Ask the employee to work late (again)
  2. Give a bad appraisal (again)
  3. Give the employee a major project, with no additional resource,  that he will take all the credit for (again)
  4. Explain why he can’t promote you (again)

There may be many other triggers, but these are the kinds of events that get your employees logging on to job portals.

3 months to one year later the Employee resigns and when asked why she is leaving, she answers, quite truthfully, I am getting a better salary.

Now it is true, HR will ask other questions during the Exit Interview process, but the question HR is drawn to is your first answer at the top of the sheet….. A better salary. HR will then look at their pay scales and decide they cannot compete with this other company and sadly wave you goodbye.

Exit Interviews very rarely ask the right questions. These questions are:

  1. Where have you been looking for a new job?
  2. How long have you been looking for a new job?
  3. What made you start looking for a new job?

The answer to number 3 is the one that HR needs to begin the act of retaining people. The other 2 questions are a lead in to get the leaver remembering the answer to number 3.

It is time for HR to stop measuring the outcome of a resignation, but the input to the decision to leave.


Paul Walsh is a HR practitioner, Trainer and consultant. Now based in Cyprus he has 13 years of experience working in the Gulf, MENA and Asia. You can follow Paul on Twitter @WhywehateHR

Do you like this article? Sign up to receive our newsletter  for HR insights delivered to your mailbox.