What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is an informal meeting arranged with an employee before they leave the business. If conducted well, it can be a valuable way for your business to obtain some honest feedback about what it’s like to work for you and why the employee has decided to leave your employment.
Why conduct exit interviews?
Exit interviews are a really good opportunity to gain an understanding of why someone has chosen to resign. Employees who are leaving are much more likely to be honest than at any other time. For the employee, an exit interview can be an opportunity to get things off their chest and be honest about their reasons for leaving. All feedback is useful as it enables the business to make improvements to benefit the rest of its workforce. Any negative feedback, if framed in a constructive way, is an opportunity for positive change. Over time, data obtained from conducting exit interviews will allow you to identify trends in why people are leaving the business and learn from them to boost engagement and retention.
Bringing exit interviews into your business
If you want to bring exit interviews into your organisation, you will need to think about what you want to ask outgoing employees. The quality of these questions will determine the quality of the data you will be able to glean from the results so it’s important to give this some thought. It’s a good idea to use a mix of open and structured questions. The structured questions will be easier to report on and identify trends, but the open questions will give you richer information on why the employee has made the decision to leave and allow you to dig deeper into any answers given. While the questions are important, the interview shouldn’t feel scripted.
It will also be necessary to think about how the interview will be conducted. Its good practice wherever possible to meet the employee in a face-to-face setting. This will tend to illicit more productive conversations and is also an opportunity to arrange for the return of any company property that the employee may have in their possession. Where this is not possible, a telephone or video conferencing platform is an ideal alternative.
It’s also important to think about who will carry out the interview. The employee’s line manager may seem like the obvious choice as they already have an existing relationship with them. However, their immediate manager may be a factor in their decision to leave and therefore any responses you receive may be less candid than you would like. Another manager in the business or an HR representative might be more impartial and will enable the employee to talk openly about their decision and share feedback on their manager without fear of causing offence.
The exit interview process
The meeting should be scheduled at a mutually convenient time. Providing the employee with adequate notice will give them time to consider what they wish to say. Exit interviews are usually held on an employee’s last day with the business but any time within their last few days is fine. Notify the employee of why you are conducting the interview, usually to gain feedback on employee experience and feed into positive change, and that anything they say during the meeting will be kept confidential. The interview should be conducted in a private setting where the employee feels they can openly share feedback. It’s good practice to wish the employee well in their new role and end of a positive note. This is because the employee may choose to come back to your business at a later stage.
Once the interview is complete, it’s advisable to keep records of exit interviews on file. This will enable you to refer back to them when looking for any patterns or trends over time. While the interview is confidential, it will be necessary to share salient points with senior members in order that change can be agreed and rolled out. For an exit interview process to be successful, your organisation must be committed to driving positive change. Likewise, mangers must be prepared to receive honest feedback and be prepared to adapt their behaviour as a result.
The ultimate goal of an exit interview process is to identify issues that are reducing engagement and causing increased turnover. Data shows that its costs the average employer around 33% of an employee’s salary to recruit and train a replacement. In addition to this, high turnover can also affect the engagement of other employees and affect your employer brand. Therefore, it makes good business sense to understand why people are leaving and learn from that to reduce turnover and boost the engagement of your workforce.
By making exit interviews mandatory for all resigning employees and asking consistent questions, you will be able to compare results and identify underlying issues within your business that are causing staff to seek employment elsewhere. This will enable you to make positive changes to benefit your business and its workforce, resulting in higher engagement, lower attrition and ultimately less chance of losing key staff.
If you think exit interviews could help in your organisation, why not give us a call? We can help you tailor the questions to suit your individual business and help you understand engagement levels. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.