Most people cite job dissatisfaction, managerial relationships, and recognition or career development as reasons for leaving their current job. The right approach to exit interviews can enable companies to create development actions in order to retain their most valued employees and avoid damaging departures. It is all about listening to feedback and acting to make those changes.
Less than a third (31 per cent) of HR directors said that they ‘always’ conduct exit interviews with staff, which shows the vast majority of UK companies are not learning their lesson!
Employers need to establish what method they will use in the interview and what questions they will put forward to the employer who intends to leave.
Are they leaving to progress their career further? Are they taking on a better-paid role? Often individuals leave due to pay and benefit issues but they may also be seeking additional training and/or more opportunities to progress; a key point you can highlight when creating your plan of action going forward.
It is also worth asking the employee which aspect of their job have they enjoyed the most. This will help you and your business when collating the results for a plan of action and also give you a different perspective on the work relationships and the office environment.
Exit interviews should be an opportunity for a frank conversation between a neutral representative and the departing employee. However, employees still fear repercussions if sensitive information is discussed for fear of burning bridges or risking future job references. To avoid this and ensure that the employee feels comfortable, some organisations engage an independent third party to conduct exit interviews and avoid concerns around confidentiality.
Regardless of who conducts the interview, employee participation should always be voluntary and protections should be put in place to guarantee confidentiality. A “risk free” environment will allow frank disclosure of the vital feedback information.
It is a good idea to conduct the exit interview during the second or third week of a four week notice period. The emotion of resigning will have subsided by then and all colleagues would have been informed before the final week so the employee can purely focus on handing over or slowly disengaging with the organisation.
Focus on Development
To ensure that exit data informs your development strategy for the future and helps retain your talent, stress to the employee that the interview is an opportunity to ask for their honest opinion on aspects of the organisation and to seek their advice on areas that could be improved.
The results can therefore easily turn into future action plans. The tone of the interview should be conversational so that it leads to a more balanced reflection of the strengths and improvement areas within the organisation, always keeping in mind what you can take from this employee’s last interview to the future needs of your company. It might be too late to prevent the exit interviewee from leaving, but the information they provide can potentially improve the organisation’s employee retention strategy.
Review the Results
Having invested time and energy in collecting exit data, it is crucial to put these insights to good use in a timely and co-ordinated fashion. A review of the exit data from across the organisation should occur to shape retention and induction policies. Feedback and guidance to line managers will allow them to take pre-emptive action for retention, such as changing behaviours via coaching or training.
Protect your Business
Remember that this time can be emotional for the employee as they reflect on the time and effort they have spent on a career with their employer. Consequently, the way their departure is handled can have a lasting impact on their perceptions of the organisation. A sensitively managed exit can also ensure that former employees become brand ambassadors who will speak highly of their former employer in future.