Exit interviews – what’s the point?

manager-conducting-exit-interviews

One of your best employees has given their notice.  You know that you can’t change their mind and get them to stay. You also know they will want to leave a positive impression behind for future reference checks. Knowing this, is there any point in doing exit interviews with them?

Absolutely!

What exactly are exit interviews

Generally, exit interviews are conducted when an employee is leaving a company or even when a member leaves an association they belong to. These interviews always happen after final notice has been given. Often, a company will not have any prior warning that an employee is planning to leave, or has been looking for a new job. Exit interviews becomes the last opportunity you will have to obtain information about how this employee sees your company, their manager, and even their team.

If they are leaving, what’s the point

Employees often leave for a higher salary or better opportunities. But not always. There could be many issues going on in a department that neither HR nor management have any idea about. A team lead might not think that the complaints they receive are a big deal, or they may be afraid of bringing forth negative feedback for fear of repercussion, and so they might decide to not pass any of that information on.  When complaints and problems aren’t brought forward, no one knows that something needs to be fixed.  Exit interviews afford a safer opportunity for an employee to give honest but necessary feedback.

You may think that exit interviews are a case of “too little, too late” –  it’s not like it will prevent the resigning employee from moving on. And you are right; this isn’t an attempt to stop that particular employee from leaving. However, if done well, you can use the information gained to stop other great employees from following them out the door. This is why exit interviews are so important.

Honesty is the best policy

Exit interviews allow an employee to say what worked in their role, and what they would like to see changed for the next person. Previously an employee may have felt that saying anything negative about a situation would have put their job in jeopardy. These fears are removed once they hand in their resignation. Resigning employees often feel more comfortable giving honest feedback in exit interviews than at any other time. They may still err on the side of caution when speaking about complaints, but they will generally provide a better picture of any problem areas they encountered.

How to perform exit interviews

Plan for them in advance

You do not want to surprise, and stress, a departing employee in the last hour of their last day. Schedule a time to talk as soon as possible after they have handed in their resignation. Exit interviews tend to yield the best results when they are booked a couple of days before an employee’s end date, or immediately after.

Focus your questions

Start off with light conversation. Assure the employee there will be no negative consequences from your discussion. Then start asking questions that are pertinent to your company’s values and goals. These may be around cultural fit, advancement, unconscious bias, engagement, professional development, or benefits and salary. Every company will have different areas of concern, and getting facts will help address them proactively.

The most important question that you must ask in all exit interviews is “What caused you to start looking for another job?”

End on a positive note

Thank the employee for their time after the exit interview. Let them know you have listened to their feedback. Make a commitment to them to use the information to improve the workplace.

Take action

Now that you have this information, make sure to address any newly raised concerns right away. Provide constructive feedback where needed. Work with remaining employees to resolve issues and problems so that you do not lose another great employee for the same reason.

Exit interviews do not solve problems on their own

Exit Interviews are not the only tool you should be using to discover areas for improvement. They are too reactive for that. Instead, they should be used along with quarterly performance reviews, satisfaction surveys, department meeting, and weekly 1-on-1’s. These are all opportunities to gather feedback throughout the year, and they provide a platform for making effective change.

By continually soliciting honest feedback from employees, companies are able to discover the roots cause of problems, rather than the surface issues they originally appear to be. It is better to make changes that to keep losing exceptional employees you worked so hard to hire.

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