Transfer Employees are an Untapped Gold Mine

March 31, 2015 | By Beth N. Carvin and Kerrie Main

When employees transfer within an organization, there is an opportunity for HR to learn much about what's happening that may be impacting employee turnover and productivity.

While many HR and business leaders utilize exit interviews and employee engagement surveys to identify and reduce employee turnover drivers, most are unaware of an additional tool that can help improve retention - transfer surveys. These innovative surveys poll employees when they transfer within the organization and allow HR to gain critical feedback from current employees about their soon-to-be past departments and managers, work experiences and much more. Are you giving your transfer employees an outlet to provide honest, concrete data that will provide actionable information to increase retention?

The "Why" Behind Employee Transfer Surveys

Employees transfer within their companies for a number of reasons, such as promotions. Most employees want to grow with an organization, so that often means they must navigate along their career paths by moving from one department or division to another. In some cases, employees look to transfer because of particular problems and irritations in their current departments or positions. These things may be related to the work itself, the supervisor, training, co-workers, or other unknown factors. The good news with these types of situations is that the employee still wants to stay with the company rather than outright resign. The bad news is that if the employee is transferring due to irritations, those same problems may be driving other employees to quit.

Another critical component is that when the employee transfers, he or she is like a new employee in his or her new department or position. While the employee already knows the overall corporate culture and norms, he or she doesn't yet know about the specifics of the new department, manager and job duties. In many cases, transfer employees do not receive the same onboarding attention as new external hires. This can lead to significantly lower speed to productivity, and ultimately, employee turnover.

Exit interviews are the traditional tool used for employees who leave the company, and new hire surveys are the go-to tool to measure onboarding. Transfer surveys fill the need for both sides of the equation when employees move within the organization.

Benefits of Transfer Surveys

While most organizations already recognize that employees who become familiar with many parts of the company (transfer employees) are quite valuable, there are just as many benefits for conducting transfer surveys.

Transfer employees can help HR determine if there are problems in a particular department. For example, if everyone is transferring out of a specific department, transfer surveys can help determine if it's simply because the position is a stepping-stone entry position or if they have a supervisor who mismanages the employees.

Transfer surveys send the message that the organization values their employees. Transfer employees who are surveyed become a useful source of information, and if done properly, encourage an open, candid environment in which employees feel free to express their opinions.

Transfer surveys can help HR ensure that transfer employees' transitions into their new positions are seamless. HR can gauge the employee's experience and determine if the new manager is handling the transfer employee appropriately.

Best Practices and Tips

Organizations can do transfer exit surveys, transfer new hire surveys, or a combination of both. With today's online exit interview management technology, organizations can expand the definition of "exit interview" to include employees who are transferring as well.

Timing - The ideal time to administer a transfer survey with the goal of identifying any issues in the previous position is between 3 days before and after the last day in the "old" department. Organizations who want to measure the transition into the "new" job may want to conduct the transfer survey around 30 days after the start of the new position.

Questions - HR should use a combination of quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (open-ended) questions that will identify trends and allow analysis.

Reporting - Small organizations can enter survey results into a spreadsheet or homemade database. Larger organizations can benefit from exit interview management and new hire survey technology designed specifically to help pinpoint issues and track trends over time. The data can then be broken down by department, division, length of service, job class, age, gender, etc. to capture exactly what is happening in various parts of the organization within a wide variety of employee groups.

Transfer employees can be an organization's secret weapon for increasing retention. They are often the best source for internal feedback, and if they are given the opportunity, can help HR identify why employees leave, why they want to grow with the company, and everything in between. Are you tapping into this gold mine of knowledge?

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