Conducting a Valuable Exit Interview

Employees can be a great source of information for an organization. You may already capture their thoughts through pulse or engagement surveys, but don’t forget the value of an exit interview. An employee who is moving on to a new job may feel more open to share details of their experience. Formally capturing the employee’s reason for resignation (they didn’t get along with their manager) and experience at the organization (there was no room for growth) through an exit interview is a best practice.

Exit interviews will help your organization gather information needed to create and sustain a positive work environment, as well as identify areas that may need additional attention. Constructive feedback provided during the exit interview can provide insight to your culture, organization, staff retention and can help identify behavioral patterns within the organization.

As this is likely one of the last meetings the employee will have prior to their departure from the organization, it is important to maximize the time.  Keeping the exit interview questions short and to the point will help the interviewer guide the process. Ask about why the employee is leaving the job (you may be surprised), and what changes the company can make to prevent additional turnover. This is also a great time to ask about training and resources that are available to employees. Was their initial training sufficient? What resources did they find most effective and easiest to implement? What did they like most/least about their job?

Phrasing questions with scalable responses will help you gather and summarize your employees’ feedback in an anonymous report. The reviewer of the surveyed data may dismiss a particular employee’s comments/responses if they know who said it.  This format will allow you to share feedback, act on details that have been gathered, and evaluate how you are doing as an employer in various categories. Depending on how large your organization is, a yearly review of the collected details presented to the leadership team is suggested.

For instance, how satisfied were you with the following: (1 not satisfied – 5 very satisfied):

Exit interviews do not need to be conducted by a member of your HR team, but it is critical to identify someone who is a trusted employee, who can be a neutral party and can keep the collected information confidential.  A mentor or manager with good people skills may be just the right person to conduct the interview. The exiting employee’s manager should never conduct the interview as there may be a conflict of interest if the employee doesn’t get along with the manager. The reasons behind an employee leaving your organization may be sensitive, and, in some cases, not related to the business at all. When the employee feels heard, understood, and appreciated, they will be much more comfortable sharing details and specifics during their interview. Truly, the best attribute an interviewer can have is to be an active listener.

Adding exit interviews to your offboarding process is a best practice and can provide valuable information to the organization. This process may elicit some painful truths, but it’s better to know and make corrections than to keep making the same mistakes.

Christi Reynolds
The Author
Christi Reynolds

As a member of the HR Services team, Christi brings over 20 years of HR experience to her work. She is well versed in California and Federal law, plus has a passion for helping clients create great places to work.

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