Over time, we have found that any time you solicit input from employees, you have an opportunity to gain insights into the inner workings of your company. Exit interviews are just another way to gather feedback and help you learn things that you might not be aware of. Likewise, it may reinforce information that you already have. We recommend that the person conducting the exit interview be someone that is completely “out of the loop” on the reporting structure. We have found the feedback to be more candid and that is what we prefer as we truly do believe feedback is a gift (positive or negative, it is still a gift).
To maximize the benefits of exit interviews, consider the following steps:
Encourage a frank and honest conversation. In order to help the departing employee feel comfortable, meet in private and have the interview conducted by someone other than a direct supervisor. If possible, as mentioned above, the use of a neutral third party will allow the employee to feel comfortable answering frank, honestly and candidly. To encourage participation, stress the value the departing employee brought to the company throughout their employment and explain how their input can help those they are leaving behind perform better. An online survey is always an option, however, you lose the ability to ask specific follow-up questions.
Set a strategic time for the meeting. In order to get the most benefit, conduct the meeting in the last few days of the individual’s employment. Too early, and he or she might not wish to speak freely. If you wait until the last day, the departing individual will probably be too focused on his or her future and might have lost interest in sharing their reasons for leaving.
Ask questions that you can’t ask in other forums. This is an opportunity to find out what employees are really thinking.
- “What is your new employer offering that you weren’t able to get here?”
- “Is there anything we could have changed about your position here that would have made you reconsider leaving?”
- “Was there one particular incident that triggered your decision to resign?”
Use the information wisely. It doesn’t do much good to collect information and do nothing with it. If others see that feedback is taken seriously and changes take place based upon input, others will take the process seriously. This is another area where a third party can be particularly helpful. Objectivity, the ability to analyze trends and experience in these areas will allow for solutions to be provided.
Keep the comments confidential. This should go without saying, but no one wants to feel like they’ve burned a bridge. Assure departing employees that their feedback will be safeguarded. Remember to let them know how you’ll use the information they’ve provided. It will encourage an open dialogue. Never use the names of ex-employees when sharing feedback with others. Instead, combine information gathered from several departed employees and use it to explain trends in the company.
The exit interview with a terminating employee is your opportunity to obtain information about what your organization is doing well – and, what your organization needs to do to improve. Businesses must have insights on the causes and risks associated with turnover and exit interviews are a rich source of information for organization improvement.
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