Not conducting exit interviews? This is why you should

15 March 2022 Sharyn Waterworth

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Not conducting exit interviews? Here’s why you should

Conducting an exit interview may feel like an awkward or frankly, non-vital, step in your employee offboarding process — but it isn’t. In fact, exit interviews are a key opportunity to gather honest feedback about your company and discover what an employee’s experience was truly like.  
While an employee leaving may be due to resignation, redundancy or the end of a contract, conducting a professional and solid ‘goodbye’ from the company shows professionalism and an appreciation for the employee’s contributions during their time working with you.  
So, if you’ve been neglecting your exit interviews, now is the time to start implementing them in your offboarding process. Even if the employee you’re offboarding doesn’t have fond memories of the company, an exit interview is one of the final touch points they’ll have, so why not make it a positive one?

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a chance to understand why an employee might be leaving your company and what you could improve for present employees and future new hires. 
 Exit interviews have many forms — it could be a classic in-person interview, with either a HR representative or a neutral member of management — even an external company. But remember, an exit interview can often be a vulnerable, or even uncomfortable experience for the employee leaving, depending on the circumstances, so creating an environment where they feel at ease will yield the best results.  
If an in-person meeting isn’t possible, you can always conduct the interview via a Zoom meeting or on a phone call. You can also go the route of short questionnaires or longer form surveys.  
How and when you choose to conduct your exit interviews is up to you, but generally speaking, they take place in an employee’s final week on the job. 

​Why you should conduct exit interviews 

As an employer, you’re never going to be completely aware of what transpires in the day-to-day lives of your employees — even if you do promote an open-door policy in your workplace.  
There can be a number of complicated and nuanced reasons as to why someone may decide to leave their role. And the purpose of an exit interview is to unpack this reasoning and collect valuable data about perceptions of the company, from someone who has worked “inside” of it. 
  1. Uncover HR issues

Good HR team is the backbone of any thriving company, so figuring out where an employee may have felt let down is key to making sure it doesn’t continue happening. One of HR’s primary goals, afterall, should always be to improve the wellbeing of a company's employees.  
If you want to pinpoint whether there was a HR issue, you could ask questions like:
  • Were you satisfied with your salary? 
  • Did you feel incentivised in your role? 
  • Did HR tackle the issues and queries that you brought to them?
  • Did you find the workplace culture to be inclusive? Understand employees’ perceptions of the work/role
During an exit interview, employee’s can come clean about their actual lived experience in their role. They may feel more comfortable and open voicing their honest opinions now that their time with the company is drawing to a close. 
You can discover things like: 
  • What they thought of their peers and if they worked well together;
  • Whether they were satisfied with working conditions and their work/life balance;
  • If the company culture was a good fit;
  • If they thought their job was designed well.
Their answers can help you rejig the open position and inform how you advertise the role when recruiting. ​
  1. Insight into managers’ leadership styles and effectiveness

Uncovering more in depth information about supervisors and managers is a fantastic opportunity to learn about your managerial team — where they’re succeeding and where they may be falling short. 
For instance, as told in an article from the Harvard Business Review, an international finance service hired a new mid-level manager to lead a department of 17 employees. Only 8 remained a year later, and after conducting exit reviews, the company noticed they all flagged the same (lack) of leadership skills that eventually wore them down. 
The company had a problem – they were hiring people into leadership roles, not based on managerial skill, but technical ability. The result? Losing talented employees. Which is why, if you’re seeing an increase in employee turnover, you should be taking the time to figure out why. ​
  1. Potential to learn about salary/benefits at other companies

If an employee is leaving because they’ve accepted a role at another company, it’s worth asking what persuaded them. Learning this information helps your company improve in two ways:  
  1. You can understand which benefits are most important to job seekers at the moment, so you can offer something similar and attract high quality candidates in the future. 
  2. You can gauge whether your remuneration offering is competitive with other companies advertising similar roles, as this may be why you’re losing top talent. ​

Examples of exit interview questions you should ask

While conducting exit interviews doesn’t necessarily mean reducing your employee turnover rate, employees are still less likely to leave if they feel engaged and appreciated
So, gathering feedback in an in-person IE or generating data from surveys to make sure you’re spotting the gaps on the ground, is still a great way to ensure your organisation is addressing potential problems. 
When you’re deciding which questions to ask, think about the outcomes you’re wanting to achieve. Make sure the questions you pose are ones that you can draw conclusions from and act upon. And of course, only ask questions that are relevant to the employee and their situation. 
Here is an example of questions you could ask an employee during an exit interview: 
  1. What were the circumstances leading up to your resignation?
  2. If you’ve already accepted a new position, what attracted you to accept their offer? 
  3. How would you describe your relationship with your managers/coworkers? 
  4. Did you find your manager's leadership style fulfilling or were there areas you believe could be improved? If so, what were they? 
  5. What did you like and dislike about your role? Was there anything you would change? 
  6. Do you feel you were given suitable training/equipment and opportunities for professional development? 
  7. Do you feel that your professional and personal wellbeing was supported during your time with the company? 
  8. Did you enjoy the company culture and your work environment? 
  9. Were there any policies or procedures the company implements that you believe could be improved? 
  10. Do you have any more feedback you would like to add? 
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