Exit Interviews – Why They Matter and What to Ask

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When an employee hands in their notice, many organizations dive right in to finding the right replacement and they miss out on a valuable opportunity. A thoughtful exit interview provides insight into the employee mindset – why they leave, why they stayed as long as they did, and what they wished would have been different about their time at your company. We’re about to look at why exit interviews are so important and offer suggestions on what to ask.

Why Conduct Exit Interviews?

It’s normal for individuals to change jobs several times during their adult lives, but it benefits employers to keep turnover to a minimum. It’s expensive to interview and train new staff members. Experts estimate it might cost tens of thousands of dollars, up to twice an employee’s annual salary to cover the upfront and hidden costs. Good exit interviews help you reduce turnover because they give you an unvarnished view of the employee life cycle.

Save money

During exit interviews, you will likely uncover areas of strength and weakness within your organization you otherwise wouldn’t have known about. When you reduce waste, improve morale and streamline processes, profits increase.

Encourage frankness

Employee polls and surveys have their place, but as long as someone receives a paycheck from you, he or she will likely use caution when sharing opinions or information that might be negatively received. During an exit interview, because staff members don’t have to worry how their words will affect their chances of future employment with your company, many will share more openly.

Improve retention

As you correct problems in the work environment based on information you receive, existing employees feel happier and more valued. Increased job satisfaction results in lower turnover.

Avoid transition problems

An exit interview gives you a chance to review important documents like non-compete and intellectual property agreements. If the employee is leaving over problems that might result in legal action or reflect negatively on your reputation as an employer, you have a chance to address them. Instead, you give employees a chance to provide feedback and end things on a positive note.

Questions to Ask

A thoughtful exit interview gathers data on an employee’s overall experience, aspects of your workplace culture, insight into what drew them to your business in the first place, a peek into what the competition is offering and other observations. Conduct them in person, by telephone or through video conference for best results. If you’re gathering data on a large scale or pressed for time, a survey can also provide useful insights.

Solicit candid feedback asking questions like these:

  • Why did you start applying for another job?
  • What led you to accept your new employer’s offer?
  • Did you feel you had the support and equipment to do your job well?
  • What could we have done better?
  • Did you talk about your concerns with anyone who works here when you were thinking about leaving?
  • Would you ever consider working here again?
  • How would you describe our company culture?
  • Were you comfortable sharing needs or concerns with your manager?
  • What could your manager have done differently?
  • Did you feel your work had clear goals and objectives?
  • Did you receive feedback to help you meet those goals and objectives and improve your performance?
  • Did you feel like a valuable member of the team?
  • What was the best part of your job? The most difficult?
  • What qualities will your replacement need to succeed?
  • Can you think of other issues that should be addressed or other issues you would like to share?

Don’t just work your way down the list, really listen. If you sense your employee might have more to add, ask them to elaborate.

What to Do With Exit Interview Data

Harvard Business Review points out when exit interviews fail, it’s either because of poor data quality or a lack of consensus on what to do with that data. They found in 2/3 of organizations surveyed, there was very little follow-up, so exit interviews seemed to have a negative return on investment.

Exit interviews are powerful tools when you find reasons for turnover and act on them. If you see a pattern emerge where employees leave over frustration with their boss, provide training and feedback to help administrators adjust their management style. If exit interviews show a lack of employee engagement, help staff find fulfillment, purpose and growth in their roles. When high turnover rates are connected to money, you might need to find ways to restructure pay and benefits.

Create a targeted retention plan, then monitor exit interview data over time. Share trends with supervisors, department heads and interviewing staff. Expect greater employee retention and satisfaction in connection to positive changes.

Simplify Staffing

Employers experience lower turnover when they hire staff with the right skills and traits for their organization. Brelsford Personnel stands apart from other staffing agencies because we pride ourselves on helping each employer find exactly the right fit with every single hire. Contact us to find out more.

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