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Why the views of those who move on matter

Julia Smith

Chief business psychologist, MI-Say and founder and director, People Science Consulting

30 August 2023

Opencast uses exit interviews as part of its listening strategy. MI-Say’s business psychologist Julia Smith, who helps Opencast to support its people, explains how they work and the thinking behind it

No matter how great an employer is, the simple truth remains: people move on. The better the employer, the lower the employee attrition rate. But people moving on is a fact of working life – and is not always a negative for either the organisation or for those moving on. 

Finding out what people think when they leave an organisation is without doubt good practice – and exit interviews can bring out lessons and insights about how people think and feel that may not be available elsewhere.

At MI-Say we have had the privilege of working with Opencast, a multi-award-winning technology consultancy with an exciting growth trajectory. Over the last two years, Opencast has been recruiting at pace, having more than doubled its people numbers to over 450. 

Opencast has also expanded geographically by opening new hub offices in London, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow, alongside a newly refurbished headquarters space in Newcastle.

Hiring and onboarding at such volume and pace can often result in early attrition. But Opencast’s staff turnover is remarkably low in a sector where demand for technology professionals is outstripping supply significantly.

Part of the reason for this is that Opencast thinks and acts differently in its people practices. 

It works hard to look after its people, including with a team of 'people experience partners' supporting personal development. It offers training, learning and development tools, has a mentoring scheme, and runs regular events on technical and social issues. It is also committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion across its work. Its inclusive and culture-first philosophy helped it reach the top 20 on Newsweek’s 2022 UK 100 Most Loved Workplaces list.

While Opencast has a low attrition rate, it still wants to use exit interviews effectively, as part of a proactive listening strategy. It has spent time thinking through the best methods for conducting exit interviews – and one key decision it has taken is to use an independent third party to do them. This is where MI-Say comes in.

Colour photo of woman smiling at camera
Julia Smith: "Exit interviews provide insightful data on the sentiment of a company’s alumni"

Independence offers more honest feedback

Independent interviews offer the likelihood of more honest and therefore accurate feedback. We know from our experience that independence does elicit greater candour.  

The method for the interview is clearly important, too. In our work we offer leavers both an interview and a survey option to increase take-up. Offering choice also gives our customers the opportunity for both scalable data (through surveys) and more in-depth feedback (from interviews). 

Listening to leavers achieves two crucial outcomes for the business:

  • Gaining intelligence and insight into why people leave, where they are going and why they have chosen their new path. This helps Opencast understand the balance of push factors (things the company is doing that lead to dissatisfaction) and pull factors (market or personal dynamics that draw people away).  This intelligence means the company can put its energy and focus into the actions that matter and have impact.
  • An understanding of the sentiment of the people who are leaving and a chance to be an advocate. Opencast understands that people go back into the wider employment market and share their experiences of their previous organisations. It naturally wants people who leave to be advocates, recommending them as an employer or business partner and maybe at some point in future, re-joining.

Opencast chief people officer Cate Kalson, who has worked with MI-Say on the company’s exit interview strategy, says: “people leaving is an inevitability in our sector – and it can be a great decision for an individual’s career progression or personal priorities. We want people leaving as a positive choice, having had an enriching experience. 

“We also want our people to leave knowing that they are welcome to come back one day so it stands to reason that we would want to hear why they’ve chosen to leave and their experience of working with us.”

At the heart of Opencast’s colleague experience strategy is the drive to have a positive impact on how its people feel – striving for people to feel understood, cared for, invested in, valued and autonomous. Measuring people sentiment throughout their employment journey is therefore paramount. 

MI-Say measures sentiment when people join and leave an organisation using ‘leaver net promoter score (iNPS)’ and starter net promoter score (sNPS). A bit like employee net promoter score  (eNPS), lNPS and sNPS ask colleagues about the likelihood of them recommending their employer to people as a good place to work.  

Opencast has an excellent lNPS of +32. Most employers would be happy to have an eNPS at that level, let alone lNPS. Still, the Opencast people team knows that it cannot take positive sentiment for granted – and it wants to continue to work to maintain and improve lNPS. 

The company has now added lNPS to its goals, to ensure that it is both tracking and constantly improving the experience and advocacy levels of people who chose to leave. It has now set the ambitious goal to increase lNPS to 70, close to parity with its eNPS of 80. 

Exit interviews are a superb tool for helping solve the problem of high employee turnover – but they can also provide incredibly insightful data on the sentiment of a company’s alumni. At Opencast, they without doubt add a significant element to the company’s listening strategy.

If you’re interested in listening to your leavers or new starters, please contact jo-anne@mi-say.com.

Colour illustration of MI-Say company logo
MI-Say uses ‘leaver net promoter scores'

People leaving is an inevitability in our sector – and it can be a great decision for an individual’s career progression or personal priorities

Authors

Julia Smith

Chief business psychologist, MI-Say and founder and director, People Science Consulting

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