Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a considerable number of employees are leaving your organization and you have always wondered what could be the reasons behind this departure? When the employee turnover becomes a cause for concern, exit interviews become more crucial. This article will give insight into what exit interviews are, and how best you can utilize them to ensure a healthy organization.
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is a meeting between management representatives and someone who is leaving an organization, either voluntarily or through termination. Exit interviews are common in business, education, and government environments. The purpose of the interview is to gather useful feedback that can help guide future practices and improve recruiting and retention. In a corporate environment, exit interviews are usually conducted by human resources personnel. Alternatively, depending on the size of the company and other factors, interviews may be conducted by management or outsourced to an HR service provider.
The interview may be conducted in person, over the phone, through email, or in an online survey. In general, interactive methods are considered more useful than surveys because they allow interviewers to respond to the employee and develop follow-up questions that can yield more in-depth information.
The specific questions asked in an exit interview vary for terminated employees and those leaving voluntarily. For an employee leaving voluntarily, the most important question is “Why?” If they repeatedly hear particular reasons for leaving, the business may be motivated to review practices, pay scales, and benefits, among other things.
Whether an employee quits or is fired, it may be profitable to ask what they liked most about the job and what they liked least. If several employees mention problems working with a particular manager, for example, that is an issue that should be explored. When an employee is fired for inadequate performance, it can be useful to ask if they believe business practices or other corporate issues contributed to the problem.
How to conduct exit interviews
Conducting exit interviews can generate positive changes within your organization. You get an insight into the reasons for your employees’ resignations. Then, by analyzing your findings after an effective exit interview, you can reduce your employee turnover rate. Seeing top-performers leave feeling unmotivated is a sign you should adopt retention programs and offer your employees more opportunities to develop. Exit interviews can also give you a sneak peek of competition benchmarks. Employees who leave you for competitors could help you learn where you stand with salaries and other benefits. Here are some tips on how to conduct an effective exit interview that offers you deeper insight into your organization’s problems.
1. Choose your interview format
Giving your departing employees a questionnaire to fill out could be less time-consuming and help avoid some uncomfortable discussions. However, conducting a face-to-face exit interview has some of the following benefits:
- You show that you care about your employees’ opinions by dedicating time to listen to what they have to say.
- You get the chance to have a less structured conversation that could result in unexpected feedback. (Feedback that a standardized questionnaire wouldn’t be able to provide.)
- You can end things on a personal, positive note.
2. Choose your interviewer
The person who’s most familiar with your employee’s work is their direct supervisor, but, it’s best if someone else conducts the exit interview. If people are leaving because of their manager, they probably won’t say so if their manager does their exit interview. They may also keep quiet to get a good reference. An HR team member usually is the best option, because they can focus on role-specific issues and complaints or suggestions for the organization as a whole. Some companies choose to have external consultants perform exit interviews. Former employees might feel more comfortable talking to an unbiased third party but this tactic could also seem impersonal and cold.
3. Decide what to ask
Prepare your interview questions. Although you don’t want to make the exit interview look scripted, make sure you cover important topics before your employee leaves. Don’t forget to promise confidentiality and try to keep a casual and friendly tone to let the conversation flow.
Exit interview questions
While you never want the conversation to appear scripted, there are key questions you want to touch on when you conduct exit interviews. You should also ask some of the same questions across the board in every exit interview. This way you can compare answers and look for common responses. Here are some effective exit interview questions to consider:
- Please describe your general feelings about working here. If possible, please tell us what caused you to leave.
- What did you enjoy most about working here?
- If you could change three things, what would they be?
- How do you feel you were treated by your supervisor and your co-workers?
- How well do you believe your work was recognized and appreciated?
- Do you feel you were given adequate training and assistance?
- Are there things you wish you had known earlier?
- Do you think your work was aligned with your personal goals?
- What could be done to make this company a better place to work?
While it’s important to be on alert for harassment or discrimination complaints or just bad management that your exiting employee may point out, you do not want to fuel the fire. Exit Interviews should focus on the company, and the information you gather should be helpful, constructive feedback that you can use to move the company, employees, and processes forward. These conversations also allow employees to provide their opinions and share what led to their decision to leave. However, you need to be careful not to encourage negativity by avoiding the following questions:
- Do not ask targeted questions about specific people or issues. While it is alright to ask for general feedback about a supervisor, you should not insert your opinions into the conversation.
- Do not say anything that could be construed as slander. The conversation should focus on the employee’s experience. Although he or she may have negative things to say about certain people, you should listen without agreeing or disagreeing with his or her point.
- Do not lay the groundwork that could look like you are setting someone up for termination. Any employee’s performance and status within the company should not be shared – especially with a departing employee.
- Do not get into personal issues. Keep the conversation professional and work-related.
- Do not try to convince the employee to stay with your company. If you want an employee to stay, this conversation should have happened at the time of the resignation.
Format for exit interviews
Exit interviews provide a rare and valuable opportunity for honest feedback. Other types of feedback for example employee surveys, year-end reviews—are essential, but they can often be tempered by the expectations or influence of co-workers, supervisors, and managers. Employees want to provide an honest accounting of their experiences and challenges, but competing priorities, like making a positive impression or maintaining workplace relationships, can influence the type of information they share. By using a variety of approaches when conducting the exit interview, you can be assured of receiving adequate feedback on your organization and this will guide you on the best interventions to make. Below is a template on a format for conducting an exit interview:
▌Exit Interview – <insert company’s name>
Employee Name: <insert name>
Position: <insert position>
Date of interview: <insert exit interview date>
What are the reasons for leaving?
Select one or more:
|Higher pay||Better benefits||Better career opportunity|
|Improved work-life balance||Career change||Closer to home|
|Conflict with other employees||Conflict with managers||Family and/or personal reasons|
Please rank the following:
|Job was challenging|
|There were sufficient opportunities for advancement|
|Workload was manageable|
|Sufficient resources and staff were available|
|Your colleagues listened and appreciated your suggestions|
|Your skills were effectively used|
|You had access to adequate training and development programs|
- What do you think can be improved about the job?
<Insert position and candidate’s name>
▌Remuneration & Benefits
|The salary was adequate in relation to responsibilities|
|Wages were paid on time|
|Other benefits were good|
|Work-life balance was promoted and practiced|
|The company’s superannuation fund returned good results|
- What improvements, other benefits could the company offer?
|When you started, did the induction help and was it accurate|
|Was a good and positive environment to work in|
|Had adequate equipment to do the work|
|Got on well with other staff within the company|
|There were sufficient staff to cover the work|
|The company was efficient in its dealings|
|Internal communication worked well|
|There was no bullying or harassment|
|There are adequate parking facilities|
|The business did not discriminate against any employee|
- What do you think can be improved about the Department and Company?
<Insert position and candidate’s name>
▌Supervisor / Line Manager
|Had sufficient knowledge of the job|
|Is experienced in supervision|
|Was open to suggestions|
|Recognize and acknowledged achievements|
|Acknowledged employees contributions|
|Offered and promoted ways to develop|
|Provided constructive feedback|
|Clearly communicated management decisions and how they would affect your work|
|Maintained a professional relationship with you|
- What are your suggestions or improvements to your Supervisor?
|Gave fair and equal treatment|
|Was available to discuss job-related issues|
|Encouraged feedback and suggestions|
|Maintained consistent policies and practices|
|Provided recognition for achievements|
|Gave opportunities to develop|
|Provided constructive feedback|
|Clearly communicated decisions and how they would affect your work|
- What are your suggestions or improvements to Management?
Exit interviews best practice
It can be tough to know exactly how to conduct an exit interview. Each organization and each employee is different, however, there are some exit interview best practices that can apply across the board to ensure a successful interview:
- Schedule the meeting and communicate the purpose
An employee’s last day is typically the best time to conduct an exit interview. It might even be a good idea to have it be the very last thing they do before heading on to their next adventure. It should be scheduled well ahead of the last day so your employee can be prepared. You should also provide an explanation or agenda of exactly what you’ll be discussing so that departing employees know you understand the importance of exit interviews. You’ll also enable them to provide more thoughtful answers to your questions by giving them time to think through what you’ll be talking about.
- Encourage openness by reinforcing confidentiality
Even though they’re leaving, your employee will likely find comfort in confidentiality. Of course, they’ll want you to address their feedback, but you must find a way to do so without outing them. After all, employees occasionally return, often work with past colleagues in future opportunities, and may even ask for a recommendation from a supervisor at your organization. They should feel confident in providing feedback without jeopardizing anything in the future.
- Express excitement and support for their new opportunity
It is not always the best scenario when top performers leave, but if you genuinely care about employees, you should be excited that they’re taking on new challenges. Where appropriate, express how much you and the company appreciate their contributions and how excited you are for their new journey.
- Implement the feedback
This is perhaps the most important tip of all. The information you gather in exit interviews will not do you any good if you don’t do anything with it. Take advantage of the full value of exit interviews by carefully recording and implementing the feedback. Of course, not all feedback will require action, sometimes situations are isolated or departing employees simply vent frustrations, but when you notice patterns or large issues, create a plan to start taking action immediately.
Lindah Mavengere is a Business Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.
Phone: +263 242 481946-48/481950
Mobile: +263 717 988 319
Main Website: www.ipcconsultants.com