Exit interviews, when done right, are opportunities that smart companies take advantage of. You can discuss the employee’s reason for departure, review what projects the employee had been working on, and even learn about what type of specific or confidential company information the employee may know. Good exit interviews can also help you determine any changes that need to be made to your organization.
“Exit interviews are a unique chance to survey and analyze the opinions of departing employees, who generally are more forthcoming, constructive and objective than employees still in their positions,” says Jessica Ford, director of sales and operations with Ashton Staffing. “Departing employees are liberated when leaving any organization, and provide a richer source of objective feedback than employed staff do when responding to normal staff attitude surveys.”
Smart Business spoke with Ford about conducting a successful exit interview, and effectively using that information.
What are some key things to cover in an exit interview?
Departing employees need to have a comfortable forum in which to reveal the full range of factors that led to their resignation. You should encourage departing employees to give an honest critique of expectations, conditions and requirements of their jobs.
Exit interviews can help you uncover the operational, organizational and personal variables affecting the employee’s decision to leave. This information is essential to highlighting the areas of perceived deficiency in the organization’s working environment, and can then be used to plan effective retention strategies and actions. Try to cover the following points.
- Identify what employees value most in the workplace.
- Identify the organization’s successes and failures.
- Identify specific management issues that may not be revealed during employment.
- Identify training resources and professional development needed for employees.
- Identify competitive advantages and disadvantages within your market.
How should the exit interview process be structured?
The interview can either be done in writing or face-to-face. Plan your questions before the interview, and determine what you want to know. Try to find out the departing employee’s suggestions to improve conditions, production or morale. Be sure to stay focused on the employee, use open-ended questions and save difficult questions until the end.
End on a positive note, and commit to using the information provided by the departing employee to improve your workplace. Wish your employee success in his or her new endeavor, and end the interview graciously. Avoid asking leading or subjective questions. This may lead the interviewee to bring personal feelings into the interview.
Some sample questions include:
- Why are you leaving?
- What did you like least and most about your position?
- How do you feel the company is run?
- How did you feel about your pay and/or benefits?
- What does your new company offer that encouraged you to accept its offer?
- How was your relationship with your manager? What could your supervisor do to improve his or her management style and skill?
- What is your experience of employee morale and motivation in the company?
- Were your job responsibilities characterized correctly during the interview process and orientation? Did you have clear goals and know what was expected in your job? Do you feel you had the resources and support necessary to accomplish your job?
- Did you clearly understand and feel a part of the accomplishment of the company mission and goals?
- Did management care about and help you accomplish your personal and professional development and career goals?
- What would you recommend to help us create a better workplace?
Exit interviews are important in situations where employees have been asked to leave. This gives an individual a chance to air any grievances and provide feedback. Expect the unexpected and be prepared for negative responses, even if the employee is leaving on his or her own accord.
Exit interviews are only effective if results are analyzed. Try to determine any trends in answers if you’ve had a few people quit. Use results to identify changes that allow you to keep other employees. Use this opportunity to listen, learn and make necessary changes within your business.
How do you make sure there’s an atmosphere of open feedback during the exit interview?
One option is to ask only objective questions, and don’t ask for their personal opinions. If a person is uncomfortable, have him or her complete a survey in private, and refrain from discussing the answers with the person.
Always listen to, recognize and respect a disgruntled worker’s opinions and insight. Simply listen, but do not respond with your own thoughts if he or she is venting. Think of the exit interview like a therapy session. Let the person talk and just take notes.
How do you use the information from an exit interview in your company?
Well-orchestrated exit surveys, in combination with other human resources initiatives related to maximizing employee attitudes and behavior, have the potential to become valuable tools to help reduce turnover and increase employee satisfaction and commitment. An effective reduction in turnover has clear economic and organizational benefits that can more than pay back the investment made in an exit survey system.
Jessica Ford is the director of sales and operations with Ashton Staffing. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.