When an employee leaves a job it is always a big loss for the organization. Irrespective of whether they have moved on to a better job offer or you have let them go, there is always an empty feeling on either side most of the times. But, it is important for you, as a human resource professional to ensure that this event is not marred by negativity. You should rather retrospect on the reasons, and try to find out the answer to the “why”?
This is where exit interviews help.
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is the process of accumulating information from the employees who are leaving the organization to get their perspective on different factors that led them to make such a decision. The ultimate objective of the exit interview is to enhance employee satisfaction and retention rates that ultimately results in enhancing the employer brand.
The importance of conducting exit interviews
Every organization wants to create a workforce that consists of happy, successful employees that remain in the organization for a very long time. But, sometimes it is not possible; as employees leave the organization for several reasons, including, but not limited to the following:
- Better opportunity;
- Better pay package;
- Career advancement;
- Freedom from bad bosses.
This is where an exit interview can be very useful. It assists you to recognize the perspective of the outgoing employee and the factors that led to take the final decision.
Understanding the correct reason is very important for you as employees are assets of an organization. They are the best judge to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. Now, that they are leaving the job, they can provide their honest and unfiltered opinions which can be invaluable for improving the organization as a whole.
But, it is important to understand that every employee will have their opinions and experiences pertaining to the organization which cannot be singled out in one exit interview. Exit interviews need to be conducted on a consistent basis for all departing employees, so that over a period of time, you can identify one or more macro levels influencing employee turnover.
Exit interviews are not only for those employees who intentionally leave the job, but also for those who were laid off or fired. Conducting these interviews on each and every employee will provide you an invaluable perspective to understand the reasons behind the unsuccessful tenure of an employee for a particular role in the organization.
# 1 HR professionals should be given the responsibility to handle exit interviews
According to a 2016 HBR survey of 188 executives, approximately 70% of respondents said their HR departments handle exit interviews, while 19% said that an outgoing employee’s direct supervisor conducts them. It is logical for HR professionals to handle exit interviews as the outgoing employee may feel intimidated in speaking with the direct supervisor. It may withhold the outgoing employees from speaking their heart out, thereby not provide true insights about their grievances which will harm the overall objective of carrying out an exit interview.
# 2 Exit interviews need to be carried out in face-to-face meeting
When you want to dig out information from an outgoing employee and make them talk about their grievances, the best way is by conducting a face-to-face meeting. Avoid making it a one-off phone or email communication as you may not get a spontaneous or an honest opinion from them. Initiate the talk by sitting across the desk and having a casual conversation with them.
# 3 Promise confidentiality of information to the outgoing employee
There are times when the outgoing employee might feel unnecessary to dig out past grievances. It can be that they are eyeing for the spot once again in the future or do not want to spoil their relation with the superiors. This makes it important for you to inculcate trust in the outgoing employee by promising them full confidentiality of their information. Tell them that their feedback will used for the overall betterment of the organization; and in no way will harm their future professional life. This will make them sympathetic towards the cause and enlighten you about their grievances.
# 4 Ask the right exit interview questions
It can be challenging for the HR professional to come up with a list of exit interview questions. To make your task easy, you should always have a checklist of questions ready to go, including the ones mentioned below:
General questions – To break the ice
- How is your day going on?
- What are your vacation plans?
- Excited about the new job?
Question to uncover the motivation behind leaving the job
- What prompted you to start looking for a new job?
Question to evaluate the competitive nature of the job market
- What is the reason for accepting the new job? What are you most excited about in the new job?
Questions to understand the professional equation with the manager
- How was your relationship with your manager?
- Were you given clear instructions on what was expected of you?
- Did your manager help you achieve these goals and grow your skills professionally?
- Were you given adequate tools and resources to carry out the mundane tasks?
Question pertaining to positive aspects of working in the organization
- What were the things that you liked while working in the organization?
Question pertaining to negative aspects of working in the organization
- What were the different things that you disliked while working in the organization?
Questions pertaining to specific role handled by the outgoing employee
- What aspects of the job motivated you to give your 100% effort?
- What aspects deterred you from successfully completing your job?
Questions pertaining to job satisfaction
- Did the role offered to you meet your expectations?
- In what ways was it good, bad or different?
Questions that assist you judge the true sentiments of the outgoing employee
- Will you recommend this organization to your friends, relative or family members?
- Will you consider returning to the organization in the future?
An additional question to end the exit interview
- If given a chance, which aspect of the organization would you change that will improve your overall working experience?
# 5 Use the responses for organizational betterment
After the exit interview ends, it is time to scrutinize the insights and trends from the data collected. If you see any recurring issue, present it to the top management so that effective steps are taken to deal with it in a proper way for organizational betterment.
According to Zell Murphy, SVP of finance and administration at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), “If you start hearing consistent concerns about something that the organization might not be doing or may be doing that is somehow causing folks to want to look elsewhere, and that’s something that’s within the organization’s control to correct, you want to know that.”
In the end, it has got to be said that every organization knows the pain areas in their business, but hate it when their outgoing employees raise those concerns. The best thing to do in such a situation is to contemplate and understand the significance of good employees leaving your organization. Although, it is an added task that you need to perform, the rewards can outgrow the pain encountered while following this stringent process.
The insights that you can get from the exit interviews can make the organization a better workplace for employees. Irrespective of whether it is replacing an incompetent leadership person or increasing the perks and salary of the employees, exit interviews can give useful insights to enhance the employer brand.
cFIRST Think Tank is the team that researches and produces content for cFirst. This team comprises of seasoned content and digital design professionals and background screening industry veterans. Together we produce insightful blogs, infographics and reports meant for HR and background screening professionals.