Here's How to Make the Most of Exit Interviews

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When done well, an employee exit interview provides an opportunity to gain insight on ways your organization can improve. Exit interview practices vary depending on the organization; however, to gather useful data, you should implement a consistent process for conducting exit interviews.

This process should be used when any employee voluntarily leaves — not just when key performers or employees from specific areas of the business choose to leave. Ultimately, the feedback your organization gains from exit interviews can provide insight on how to improve management practices and potentially reduce the voluntary turnover rate. As Harvard Business Review reports, you want that employee to leave your organization as an ambassador and customer.

3 Ways to Refine Your Exit Interview Strategy

Approach employee exit interviews with a positive attitude. It's likely the employee will reveal areas for improvement, but they also may share what you're doing right. Having a strategy in place can help you gather both positive and negative feedback about your organization, and may help you create brand ambassadors during the process. Use these three tips to help your organization make the most of the opportunity.

1. Use a Combination of Surveys and In-Person Interviews

Begin the exit interview process with a survey that gathers data about topics such as benefits, pay, training, management practices, work environment and opportunities for professional development. These are key metrics you can use to make improvements in areas that are important to your employees. It's also essential to schedule a brief conversation with departing employees to dig deeper into potential issues. These in-person sessions give the employee space to talk and share honest feedback.

2. Choose the Right Interviewer

The goal of a successful exit interview to acquire actionable data. To ensure that happens, you need an empathetic, active listener who knows how to uncover root issues. An exit interview can be emotional, but having the right person conducting it can help ensure it's a fruitful experience.

Some organizations choose to hire an independent third party for these interviews, since employees may feel more comfortable providing feedback to someone who isn't directly connected to the organization. This is an added cost, but the quality of feedback may offset those costs.

3. Follow-Up With Employees After They Leave

Departing employees may not want to be totally honest during an exit interview process because of fear of losing references or professional connections. Consider following up with former employees a few months after their departure. After some time has passed, they may feel more comfortable providing feedback.

Take Action Based on Feedback

If you're taking the time to conduct exit interviews, make sure you assess what was shared and act on the insights you gained. The idea is to identify trends and address issues that could be leading to turnover. Look for trends in your survey data, such as:

  • The main reasons employees cite for leaving
  • Length of time in position or with the organization
  • Roles, job functions or departments with the most turnover
  • Managers from whom people repeatedly leave

To create the best possible departure, HR leaders should refine the employee exit interview process to ensure it's consistent, conducted by the right people and captures as honest feedback as possible. When an exit interview benefits both parties, it's more likely to be a positive experience — and could even create a business advocate in the process.

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