Gathering Critical Feedback for Enhanced Organizational Growth
Written by HRCap
September 21, 2023
What is an Exit Interview?
In the intricate dance of employee departures, the exit interview is an important and essential step in the process. As defined by SHRM, an exit interview is a conversation or survey conducted at the time of an employee’s resignation to gain critical insight and information on factors that contribute to an employee’s decision to leave. Other key objectives of an exit interview are receiving feedback on the employee experience and the work itself, gaining insights on how to improve and develop leadership, understanding how the next person can be successful in the role, and reviewing any legal documents such as going over terms of non-compete and non-disclosure agreements.
[Related: 12 Practical Employee Retention Strategies]
91% of Fortune 500 companies conduct employee exit interviews, while 87% of mid-sized companies do the same. However, only 28% of HR managers have said that their company regularly acts on exit interview data, while 37% said “Not very often” or “Never.”
This meaningful opportunity to gain invaluable insights into an organization's strengths and weaknesses goes untapped as various companies forgo the opportunity and many exit interviews are mere formalities, lacking the depth and precision required to extract meaningful feedback. This is unfortunate, since employers can uncover hidden issues, improve employee retention, and enhance their organizational health by carefully asking the right exit interview questions.
Tips for Effective Exit Interviews
Though exit interviews may be nerve-wracking for all, employers should optimize exit interviews by following these 8 tips for effective exit interviews.
1. Pick the Right Time
Exit interviews should be scheduled at the right time since doing it too early may catch an exiting employee off-guard, and doing it too late may be a busy time of transitioning for the employee. It should be planned at least a week in advance and conducted during the employee’s last week of work.
2. Select the Right Mode
Though some employers may prefer to do it in person, employees may be more comfortable with a different mode, allowing them to be more transparent than in person. 44% of companies conduct exit interviews in person, 26% use an online survey, and 18% use a phone interview. There is no right mode to conduct them, and providing alternatives may increase employee participation.
3. Prepare a Standard List of Questions
Before the actual exit interview, employers should prepare a set of questions to ask the exiting employee. These questions should focus on getting feedback on the employee's experience, the role itself, the work culture, and leadership.
4. Explain the Purpose of the Exit Interview
Before requesting the exit interview, employers should let resigning employees know the purpose of the exit interview so that they know what to expect. By understanding the intention of the exit interview, employees may be more comfortable and willing to share their honest feedback.
5. Provide a Comfortable and Confidential Place
Creating a comfortable environment is essential to encouraging departing employees to share candid feedback. A secure and confidential setting will reassure employees that the interview will be treated with discretion and alleviate their anxiety about the process.
6. Determine the Right Person to Conduct Interview
Selecting the right interviewer is important to ensure an effective exit interview. Depending on the situation, it may be best for the interview to be conducted by someone outside the departing employee’s direct chain of command to ensure an unbiased and confidential discussion.
7. Guide the Conversation with Questions and Ask for Elaboration
During the exit interview, the evaluator should guide the conversation with questions and encourage employees to elaborate when necessary. Rather than asking close-ended questions, asking open-ended questions will lead to more valuable information and unique insights into the employee experience, leadership, and work environment.
8. Take Standardized Notes
Throughout the exit interview, evaluators must standardize the note-taking and document key points, concerns, and suggestions. With these notes, employers can better analyze the information to improve organizational practices.
Asking the 25 Essential Exit Interview Questions
Having appropriate questions for the exit interview is essential to gathering critical data to help identify why the employee is leaving and how to improve the current work environment.
Cause for Departure
What initiated your search for a new job opportunity?
What factors influenced your choice to resign?
What were key factors you considered when choosing a new employer?
Prior to your decision to leave, did you share your concerns with anyone at the company?
Is there anything we can do to change your decision to leave?
Under what circumstances, if any, would you consider coming back to the company?
Did the position meet your expectations?
Did you feel that you were well-equipped to perform your job responsibilities?
Did you feel adequately trained and supported to excel in your role?
Did you find it easy or difficult to achieve your goals and objectives, and why?
What aspect of your job did you enjoy the most?
What aspect of your job did you not enjoy at all?
How would you describe the ideal candidate to take over your role?
Relationship with Manager & Team
How much interaction did you have with your colleagues and teammates?
How would you rate your working relationship with your colleagues?
How would you rate your working relationship with your immediate supervisor/manager?
How much interaction did you have with senior leadership and upper management?
Did your manager regularly provide you with helpful feedback and guidance?
Did you feel you were fairly assessed and well-compensated for your contributions?
How would you describe the workplace culture here?
What benefits or programs did you feel were missing from the organization?
What are your suggestions to make this a better place to work?
What are some areas that the organization can improve on?
Would you recommend working at our company to your friends or acquaintances?
Is there anything else you’d like to share or any additional feedback you’d like to provide?
Wrapping Up the Exit Interview
After having asked all the necessary questions, employers should take the opportunity to review any pertinent legal documents that the departing employee has previously signed, such as non-disclosure and non-compete agreements. This step is crucial to remind and reaffirm their ongoing understanding and alignment of existing agreements, which are essential in protecting the company’s intellectual property and business interests.
Analyzing and Acting on Exit Interview Data
After the exit interviews, employers should always review and apply the feedback received.
1. Collect Data
Employers should systematically collect and document the feedback and responses.
2. Analyze Feedback
After collecting the necessary data, the HR team should categorize feedback into topics, identify common issues or concerns, and consistently monitor incoming feedback to spot any patterns.
3. Prioritize Issues
Employers should assess which issues are most critical for employee retention and satisfaction, and carefully consider the potential cost, implication, and benefit of addressing each issue.
4. Develop Action Plans and Implement Changes
After prioritizing which issues to address, the HR team should propose strategic action plans, engage the involved stakeholders, and implement these necessary changes.
5. Monitor Progress
While implementing these changes, the HR team must monitor the progress of the action plans, receive continued feedback from employees, and address any additional issues to make a lasting impact on the organization and the workforce experience.
Adopting a strategic exit interview process will only empower the company to take proactive steps toward a more engaged and satisfied workforce. These interviews ultimately benefit employers since they can receive feedback on the employee experience, gain insights on leadership development, and understand what qualities the next candidate must have to fill the role.
Companies must keep in mind that exit interviews are just as important as employee onboarding and training because they provide actionable insights into the entire employee experience. We strongly encourage all organizations to immediately take action and turn their exit interviews into a goldmine of information and employee retention strategies.
Sources: HRCap, BambooHR, Berkley Group, Indeed, Robert Half, HR University, Forbes, HBR, SHRM, The Human Capital Hub
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