As if a global pandemic isn't enough to handle, companies still have to continue to address employee turnover. Turnover is expensive, and can be daunting to deal with but there are ways to turn it into an opportunity to learn more about your company, and use it to improve the way you do things.
This is exactly why our HR Pros recommend business leaders adopt the use of exit interviews. Exit interviews can be an extremely useful tool as long as you’re prepared to act on what you learn. Below are some of the basics to keep in mind.
Exit interviews typically use one of two formats: an in-person interview or a form the employee completes on their own. An in-person (or video conference) interview allows for follow-up questions if the employee says something you’d like to know more about, while a written form lets the employee give more thought to each question and answer at a pace that works for them. They may also be more honest if they don’t have to answer questions face to face.
Tips Before You Get Started
- If meeting face-to-face/via video conferencing, conduct the exit interview as close as possible to the end of employment (e.g., the last hour of their last day of work).
- Meet somewhere private and make sure to allow enough time for a meaningful conversation.
- Avoid having the employee’s direct supervisor conduct the interview, if possible.
- Explain that the interview is for informational purposes and for the betterment of the organization and their coworkers.
- Say that you will take notes and that you will keep them as confidential as possible. Note that certain issues, if raised, must be discussed with management.
- Assure them that concerns or information shared in good faith will not be communicated to future employers or negatively affect a reference check.
Questions to Ask
Generally you’ll start with why the employee is leaving. Ask why they sought employment elsewhere, whether the company or their manager could have done anything differently to keep them there, and what the employee thinks their new company will do better.
If they had a bad experience at your company, find out why. Ask the employee to talk about any problems, unresolved issues, or other matters not handled to their satisfaction. Did their supervisor demonstrate fair and equal treatment? Did they provide recognition on the job? Did they foster cooperation and teamwork? You might get answers you don’t want to hear, but they’re invaluable if you’re serious about improving employee retention.
Working relationships are also foundational to employee morale and success, so ask about situations, practices, or behaviors that helped or hindered collaboration. Was communication good or bad? What made it that way? What practices or working conditions were beneficial and should be maintained or enhanced?
The exit interview is also a good opportunity to get the employee’s perspective on their training, benefits, and the growth potential the employee felt they had, as well as the performance review process, and their assessment of employee morale.
Concluding the Interview
At the end of the interview, we recommend that employers do the following:
- Briefly review the key points you learned.
- Ask for any clarifications you may need.
- Ask the employee if there’s anything they’d like to add.
- Thank the exiting employee for their service.
- Wish the exiting employee the best in their future endeavors.
- NOTE: If you are aware (or suspect) that the employee is relocating (i.e. changes addresses), you might also want to ask the employee for contact information so that you can send the employee their W2 at the end of the year.
Written Exit Questionnaire
You’ll probably want to follow a similar line of questioning if you request a written response, but keep in mind that the employee probably won’t want to spend a lot of time on it, so try keeping it to five questions at most.
These are often more informative than regular check-ins because departing employees have little to lose in being candid.
Exit interviews will be useful only if you’re willing to have these conversations and make changes based on what you learn. So share the info gleamed with your team's leaders and then be ready to work on making the appropriate improvements.