When an employee hands in a resignation notice, your HR department probably initiates a protocol that deals with payroll, IT access, plans to find a replacement, and a myriad of other housekeeping tasks. If your protocol includes an exit interview, make sure your HR staff knows how to get the most out of it. On the other hand, if your company does not conduct exit interviews at all, you are missing a fabulous opportunity to learn things about your company and its employees that you may not have known.
The Importance of Conducting Exit Interviews When an Employee Departs
Done properly, an exit interview with a departing employee can provide you with important information that can help your company in many different ways. You can gain insight into the company culture, effectiveness of training, and the style of management. Even if, and especially if, the departing employee is very disgruntled, they can give you information you cannot easily get any other way.
Specifically, you may be able to learn the “real” reasons why the employee is leaving, and make note of the employee’s comments and any suggestions. Departing employees tend to be willing to offer honest viewpoints, knowing that the employer/employee relationship no longer chills the employee’s candor. Companies often use the information provided during these interviews to assess needed changes in the organization. Making these changes can lower the turnover rate and improve overall productivity and morale.
Strategy for Performing a Good Exit Interview
How do you conduct a good exit interview? Here are some important steps to ensuring success:
Conduct the exit interview in person.
Face-to-face interviews will give the company more information than a written survey. It will become more conversational and allow the interviewer to have in-depth discussions about the employee’s reasons for leaving and focus on issues the employee raises spontaneously.
The interviewer should be an HR professional.
To enhance a candid discussion, avoid using the employee’s supervisor or manager. HR professional staff is usually trusted by employees, since the HR staff usually has been trained in HR matters, and they are not in the employee’s chain of command and are seen as neutral.
The interview should be done a day or two prior to the employee’s departure.
Avoid the temptation to conduct the interview right after the employee submits a resignation letter. Instead, inform the employee that an interview will take place on the day prior to departure and explain that the purpose of the interview is to hear the employee’s views on the company culture, management, business, and so on. This allows the employee to think about the responses and provide thoughtful comments.
Questions to ask at the exit interview.
Here are ten questions that can generate a discussion and uncover useful information for your company:
1. Why are you leaving?
2. What led you to accept the new job?
3. Is there anything we could have done to make you stay?
4. Did you feel comfortable talking to your supervisor/manager about work problems?
5. Did you feel that you had everything you needed to perform your job well?
6. What are three things our company could do to improve?
7. If you knew someone who was looking for a job, would you recommend us? Why?
8. Would you ever come back?
9. What was your favorite part about working for this company?
10. What is the other job offering that we are currently not?
The answers to these questions likely will necessitate follow up questions to pull out specifics. Let the employee’s answers drive the conversation. For example, you may be able to learn that the employee is leaving to shorten the commute, or you may learn that your company’s pay and benefits are less generous than your competitors’. You can find out about problems with communication in the employee’s chain of command, management problems, and so forth.
Some topics, however, should be avoided. For example, do not ask about personal issues. Do not engage in gossip. If the employee brings it up, listen, but steer the conversation back to business. If the employee mentions harassment or bullying incidents that may be going on within your company, follow up on that with appropriate personnel. The best advice is to keep the interview professional with a work focus.
Contact a Professional HR Outsourcing Firm for More Information
If your company does not have an exit interview protocol in place, you can hire an experienced HR outsourcing firm to handle it for you. Their HR professionals have done these exit interviews and they know how to steer the discussion to gain the insight your company can use. If you prefer, they can coach you on how to do them in-house. They can also help you use the information gleaned from the interview to improve your retention rate.