Blog | Discover How To Get The Most Out Of An Exit Interview

Published January 12, 2016 by Alex Wilke

Employee Insight
Discover How To Get The Most Out Of An Exit Interview

Many organisations still don’t get the most out of exit interviews, treating them as an afterthought, or a tick box exercise, if they provide them at all. Exit interviews can benefit both the employee and the employer - make sure you get the maximum value by following these steps.

Feedback from employees is vital to drive better understanding of your organisation – and to make data driven decisions to improve strategy and tactics. Bringing together feedback and surveys from across the employee journey, from the initial recruitment process to exit interviews and beyond, using a central platform is crucial to creating greater insight into staff concerns.

However, many organisations still don’t get the most out of exit interviews, treating them as an afterthought, or a tick box exercise, if they provide them at all. This risks missing out on invaluable feedback, that can help improve operations, prevent further exits and build good future relations with leavers. Additionally, the world of work is changing rapidly, with employees and leavers now able to share their experiences with a much wider group of people through social media and sites such as Glassdoor. Fail to treat them fairly and listen to their concerns and negative feedback could well damage your employer brand and harm future recruitment and working relationships.

Run properly, exit interviews benefit both the employee and the employer in four main ways:

1. Closure for both sides

First and foremost, exit interviews provide the chance for employees to give unfettered feedback around why they are leaving, as well as a chance to achieve closure. This isn’t always the case, but most employees will be keen to leave with dignity and reputation intact, to ensure that their reference is secure and that bridges remain resolutely unburned. Obviously any feedback needs to be cross-referenced and investigated to ensure that it is based on fact, not misconceptions or malice, but in most cases this can be checked relatively easily.

2. Safeguard corporate reputation

The world of work has changed dramatically, meaning that ex-employees are likely to come back in contact with their old employer, either as a candidate for a new role, a customer or simply as an influencer in their market. They also have a wide range of tools, from social media and sites such as Glassdoor, to word of mouth, where they can give their opinion of your organisation and how they were treated, impacting how your company is seen by potential recruits and prospects. Therefore taking a sensitive approach to exit interviews can help protect your employer brand and future customer relationships.

3. Changing processes and procedures

Although most people cite job dissatisfaction, managerial relationships, recognition, reward and career development as reasons for leaving, delving into the details can uncover grievances which could have been easily addressed, or underlying problems that haven’t yet fully surfaced. It could be that these are issues that no-one was aware of, and fixing them can benefit the company going forward.

4. Avoiding future exits

When a talented employee decides to leave, the employer’s reaction is often "if only we could have done something to prevent that decision”. It may be too late to save that particular individual, but a well-constructed exit interview can help to prevent similar departures. This is particularly true if data from exit interviews is collected across the company, linked to other feedback, such as employee surveys, via a single platform, and analysed for patterns. For example, if a large number of a specific demographic (such as graduates), are leaving at the same time, there could be a wider problem that you need to address.

Checklist for Exit Interviews

Every organisation is obviously different, but following this simple checklist should ensure you get maximum value from exit interviews:

  • Conduct the interview during the second or third week of a month-long notice period, when the dust has settled on the resignation decision. However, don’t leave it until the very last day when people are doing last minute handovers and are actively disconnecting from the organisation.
  • Stress that employee participation is voluntary and put protections in place to guarantee confidentiality. Be sensitive to circumstances – those that have been made redundant or are leaving due to disciplinary issues may not want to provide feedback.
  • Emphasise that the interview is an opportunity to give their honest opinion on all aspects of the organisation and to seek their advice on areas that could be improved.
  • Explore any opportunities to win them back, even at this late stage.
  • When designing the exit interview form give the respondent ample opportunity for free text comments, focus the questions on behavioural items and those that provide opportunities for follow up actions. Structure the questionnaire so it flows naturally and keep language informal to encourage more open responses.
  • Link responses from exit interviews to other data, especially employee feedback or engagement surveys across the employee journey. Use a central platform to make this seamless and integrated. Over time, this will enable you to derive patterns that can ultimately help you predict whether an employee is in danger of leaving, and create retention strategies to ensure they remain.
  • Appoint a group of stakeholders who regularly review and discuss the collected feedback and initiate improvements.

Recent research estimated that over 7 million employees plan to leave their jobs in 2016 – while employers should focus on retaining key talent, if staff do leave it is vital that the exit process is managed well if companies are to learn and improve going forward.

This blog was first posted on HR Zone on 12th January, 2016

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