How to Make Employee Exit Interviews Count

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Exit interviews are an integral component of the employee lifecycle. The intelligence you gather can highlight significant achievements and contribute to substantial improvements in your company. Your company’s workforce is one of your most prized assets. Taking the time to understand and appreciate the employee journey within the company is crucial to driving ongoing improvements successfully.

Skilled employees drive company success. When companies invest energy and time into understanding why employees stay, why they leave, and how the company needs to change, an exit-interview process provides invaluable feedback in all areas. Extracting exit feedback, whether it be through face to face conversations, a questionnaire, a survey or a combination of those methods can highlight hidden challenges and opportunities, generate intelligence, and enhance retention as employees receive a message that their views matter. Employees also become company ambassadors for years to come.

An exit interview is often the last deep conversational interaction an employee has with the company. It’s an opportunity for the employee to share a review of their experience and celebrate the contributions they made to the company. If you are not conducting employee exit interviews, you may be doing your company a significant disservice. Korn Ferry reported by 2030 there will be an $8.5 trillion talent shortage if companies leave matters unchecked. 

Make Employee Exit Interviews More Meaningful

Office Team survey reported that 63% of US HR Managers said that their company often acts on information gathered during exit interviews. The data extracted contributes to updating position descriptions, sharing feedback regarding management and making changes to the workplace and company culture. An employee exit interview can reveal powerful insights that you would not have access to otherwise. Here are seven key elements to help make your employee exit interviews more meaningful:

1. Be Curious and Ask Questions

Being fully present in the conversation allows the Office Manager to genuinely listen to what is being said and what is not being spoken. Ask questions and be curious when the employee is describing their experience. Ask them to detail what they mean to ensure it is not your interpretation, rather a true reflection of their experience. Take notes during the conversation to ensure critical items are accurately reported and record details of why the employee is leaving. All employees must receive the message that you care about what they are sharing. 

2. Choose the Right Person to Conduct the Interview

Identifying who must conduct the exit interview process is critical. The Frontline Leader Project reported that 57% of people quit their jobs precisely because of their managers. Also, the study said that 14% of people had left multiple positions because of management. Having the direct manager conduct the departing interview may not be the wisest. Engaging an HR representative or another senior leader to conduct the interview can help provide a buffer to elicit more honest feedback. 

3. Ask Why They Stayed All This Time

People are rarely asked why they stayed in a position. Capturing the positive aspects of employment are just as important. By gathering this information, you share light on how to retain employees, improve productivity, and what changes you can create to provide a safe and healthy work environment. Be direct and ask employees to share their positive experiences of working with their manager, colleagues and the communication channels within the company. 

4. Reinforce That It’s Not a Whine-Fest

The employee exit experience must assure people that there will not be reprisals for negative feedback. People worry about their reputations and how the data captured will be used in the future. Before the interview experience, Office Managers must outline how the interview data will be used. Employees need to feel psychologically safe if they speak openly and honestly at the exit interview. By creating a space where the employee trusts the feedback process and how the data will be used to improve the company, employees will embrace the opportunity to share. 

5. Quality Questions, Rich Answers

Every exit interview must contain a series of questions that bring light to the employee exiting the company. A starting point of asking the employee what caused them to look for a new job in the first place will shed light on how companies can understand and improve culture and workplace systems. 

6. What Not to Ask

Office Managers do not want to fuel the fire. Managers must be alert for lousy management behaviors, and due process is followed as you would for any complaint. Exit interviews must focus on the company and information gathered must be helpful, constructive, and moves the needle when it comes to employees, processes and the company moving forward. Office Managers need to be aware not to:

  • Encourage negativity by not asking targeted questions about specific people or issues, nor insert your opinions into the conversation
  • Does not feed office gossip
  • Does not voice any opinion or advice that is considered slander. Office Managers can listen to ideas, however without agreeing or disagreeing with their point
  • Do not try and convince an employee to change their mind and stay with the company as this conversation should have happened earlier.

7. Exit Interview Questions for Maximum Impact

An exit interview is an opportunity for people to speak candidly. Companies must plan questions ahead of time to assist the meeting to stay on track. 

To help get the most value from your exit interviews, here is a list of questions that will steer you in the right direction:

  • What was the primary reason you accepted your current role?
  • What were the reasons for joining our company initially?
  • How did the role match your expectations?
  • How would you describe your working relationship with your colleagues?
  • What company process do you think can be improved?
  • How could the company workplace be improved?
  • How does management recognize employee contributions? How can recognition be improved?
  • What tools, resources, and working conditions supported you to be successful in your role?
  • What was the highlight of your role?
  • What circumstances prompted you to start exploring a new role?
  • How would you describe the company to your new employer?
  • Were there company policies you found challenging to understand? How can the company make them more transparent?
  • Has your job description changed since you were employed? If so, in what ways?
  • Does the reality of your position fit with the position description you were given?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • What are 3 things our company can do to promote a better workplace? Can you provide specific examples?
  • What could have been done for you to remain employed within the company?
  • Have you shared your concerns with people at the company before deciding to leave?
  • Did you have clear goals, objectives in terms of career and professional growth?
  • How was feedback delivered to you to improve your performance?
  • What aspect of the company did you most value?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how the company can improve training and development programs?
  • Are there any ideas that you have that you wish you could have implemented while you were here?
  • The quality of supervision and one-on-one meetings is essential to most people at work. How would you describe your experience of those meetings?
  • Please describe the three best qualities of working with your manager.
  • What would you change about the company employee onboarding and orientation programs? 
  • Are there things that you wish you would have known before or during the beginning part of your employment with the company?
  • Who are the three people who have made the most positive impact on you and your career at this company?
  • What has influenced your decision to leave?
  • If you were the CEO, what would you do differently?
  • Under what circumstances would you consider returning to the company?
  • Would you recommend this company as a place to work with your friends or colleagues? Why or why not?

Exit Interviews Are An Invaluable Development Opportunity

Exit interviews are not a "tick a box" exercise. They are opportunities to create meaningful change, celebrate exemplary achievements and behaviors and can improve performance and employee satisfaction. With quality exit interview questions and process, a company can turn an employee’s departure from a potential sensitive, negative situation into an opportunity to learn and improve, while the employee leaves on the best possible terms.

Are you interested in making your workplace more efficient? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.