Did you know that four million Americans have quit their jobs post-July 2021? This phenomenon is called The Great Resignation and is an economic trend where people voluntarily call it quits. In the wake of high turnover, it is important to know why employees are leaving your organization.
Exit interviews are often an effective way to know an outgoing employee’s perspective and improve retention. Losing and replacing talent in the workforce is expensive, so an exit interview is a tool that helps gather data to take corrective measures at a low cost.
An exit interview is a meeting with a departing employee to understand their reasons for quitting and to know their attitudes toward the organization. Is a person leaving because they were offered a raise elsewhere? Are they unhappy in their present role? Or did they get a flexible job at another company? Exit interviews help to answer these questions and many more.
These interviews make the employer aware of the key issues behind people leaving the organization so that they can take the necessary measures.
Conversation with your departing employees shows that you are open to feedback and willing to go the extra mile to take corrective measures. Thoughtful exit interviews are instrumental in revealing an organization's pain points and what worked well for the employees. After all, both positive and negative feedback can help make the necessary improvements.
These interviews provide insight into the culture of your organization and its day-to-day functioning. Although it may be awkward, an exit interview is your final opportunity to tie up any loose ends.
Also, there is no better way to improve the retention rates than conducting an exit interview, as it makes people feel good that their views matter. After all, when they leave your organization they can become corporate ambassadors and boost the image of your organization.
“The goal of exit interviewing is to learn from the past, so you don't repeat the mistakes in the future.” -Michael Bergdahl
The format of the exit interview varies from one company to another. You might be required to undertake a survey, attend a phone call, or have a face-to-face interview.
As a leader, it is important that the exit is a smooth and comfortable experience for the employee. So, you should be prepared regarding the questions that you would want to ask and the talking points you want to cover.
It is good to provide the employee with a list of questions beforehand so that they feel comfortable during the interview. Moreover, they can come up with thoughtful and thorough responses providing better insights into their choices.
Another important point is to ensure that the employee is the focus of the interview. For instance, you may want to know more about your organization’s culture and practices; however, you should concentrate more on how the departing employee is feeling. After all, the purpose is not only to get insights about the company but to listen to what the outgoing employee has to say.
Here are some do and don’ts that will make the interview process successfully. These will help you gain good insights while also ensuring that it positively impacts the employees.
State the purpose of the interview clearly
As you send out an email informing the employee about the date and time of the interview, you should also mention that the purpose is to know more about why the person decided to leave. Tell them that this is an opportunity to provide feedback about the organization, the managers, and the team they worked with.
Go for online surveys
Although surveys should not be the only tool for feedback within your organization, they are practical and provide a more candid opportunity for employees to provide their opinions. Employees can share their insights anonymously, as sometimes they are reluctant to provide critical feedback face-to-face.
Ask tough questions
Many exit interview questions may be uncomfortable, especially those related to negative feedback about people and the organization. However, these questions help you understand the loopholes to devise effective solutions. You should assure the employee that their feedback will be taken constructively.
Also, ask open-ended questions, as the purpose here is to let the employee speak about their experience.
Encourage open dialogue
As this interview serves as a platform for employees to air their grievances, the person conducting the interview should provide a candid environment so that people are willing to open up about their experiences. Be an active listener, pay attention to what they have to say, and ask for suggestions on improvement. The focus should be to make the person comfortable so that they can convey their grievances in a safe environment.
Express gratitude for their service
The exit interview is an opportunity to let the employee know that the organization and their teams were grateful to have them. No matter their efficiency, every employee spends a major part of their day serving the company, so it is time to acknowledge their contribution.
From an employee’s perspective, it is always good to get an appreciation for your hard work and commitment. If they have been outstanding leaders and go-getters, don’t forget to let them know. This will help in mitigating any hard feelings that they have for the organization.
Remember that outgoing employees are your brand ambassadors, and although you cannot change the experience they had, you can ensure that they exit on a good note.
Restrict yourself to the list of questions
While a list of questions provides the necessary prompts and ensures that you ask everything important, avoid just sticking to the list. You should ask follow-up questions to get an in-depth understanding of the various issues.
Include irrelevant People
These interviews should be a one-on-one setup where the employees can share their experiences freely. Having third parties does not generally result in a positive outcome as people are hesitant to share their views.
Do not focus on specific people or issues during the interview. Rather ask for general feedback about the supervisors, team, and the organization.
When the employees have negative feedback, avoid adding more to it. Rather listen without agreeing or disagreeing and conduct a proper investigation to get to the root of the matter.
Although it is always good to know what’s going on with the employee’s life, the exit interview should focus on work-related issues. Keep it professional and be prepared with a list of questions that you should come back to if the conversation goes astray.
If you are wondering how to start the conversation and what to focus on, we have a list of questions to help you make the exit interview productive.
What prompted you to start searching for another opportunity?
What factors did you consider before accepting the new job?
Did you feel that you had the necessary guidance and tools to work efficiently?
Were you given any training opportunities to be successful in your role?
What did you enjoy the most and the least about your job?
Were your achievements acknowledged by the management during the course of your job?
Did you face any problems understanding the company’s policies? If yes, then how can we improve?
How did you find the culture of the organization?
Do you have any suggestions for improvement?
Would you recommend the organization to a friend, why or why not?
An exit interview template is beneficial in giving the employee a list of questions beforehand. It provides an opportunity for them to prepare thoughtful answers.
Here is a simple exit interview template for your reference.
Get to know what the employee thinks of his current position.
Reasons for leaving
Inquire about the main reasons why they decide to leave the company.
Ask to the employee's feedback on the company leadership, the culture, the team, etc.
A survey conducted by Burke Inc. revealed that the majority of Fortune 500 companies conduct exit interviews, however, only 40% of them find the exit data useful. A major reason is that they are unable to convert these insights into actionable steps.
So, the data you collect during these interviews will not be of help unless you use it wisely. The key is to record these interviews and get detailed notes so that you can implement the feedback.
It is important to note that not all feedback requires concrete action. A majority of it may involve the employee venting out their feelings of frustration. However, you have to recognize larger issues that are causing a high employee turnover. For instance, if people are quitting because of bad leadership, you can share the feedback with the concerned person and also provide them with the required training.
If you come across major issues then devise a plan to fix them early, as you don’t want to lose more employees and end up spending more to fill the vacant positions.
You should also use positive feedback for the benefit of your organization. For instance, if people liked the employee outings and events you can mention these perks in your recruitment messages.
Getting to know the perspective of outgoing employees is beneficial in improving your retention strategies, and an exit interview provides the best opportunity to do so.
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