An employee’s value to your company doesn’t need to be only when you employ them. Someone who is leaving your company can provide great insight about what your company does well, what can be improved, and what the employee experience is like – insight that can be used to recruit and retain other team members.
That insight is available through a planful and thoughtful exit interview.
Exit interviews can be formal or informal, and required or voluntary. Here are some considerations:
Who’s involved? Most often, someone from the HR team conducts exit interviews because they are perceived to be neutral. However, a peer or manager can also conduct an exit interview if the exiting employee might be more forthcoming and the questions asked can be more relevant. Some companies conduct multiple exit interviews depending on the level of the exiting employee.
What’s the point? It’s surprising what comes up in an exit interview when the interviewer is actively listening and empathetic. While you can expect to hear about pay, benefits, and opportunities for career growth, it’s likely that organizational dynamics, management styles, and company culture will be part of the discussion as well. These “fit” issues are important and can provide definitive areas for improvement.
What should you ask? You’ll want to tailor some questions to the individual who’s leaving, but here are questions relevant to all employees:
- Why are you leaving?
- What made you begin a job search?
- Did you get what you needed to succeed here?
- Did you feel valued here?
- What did you like/not like about your job?
- How can we improve?
- Is there anything that would change your mind about leaving?
- Would you recommend our company as an employer?
Be sure to ask for examples where appropriate so that you have a better understanding of the details. Let the interviewee vent if necessary, and don’t get defensive.
What can you do? Much of the information you get from exit interviews can be actionable. For example, you might learn about where your competitors are excelling in their recruiting efforts. You might learn about how to better train or motivate your employees. You will definitely learn where your perceptions of the workplace differ from your employees’ perceptions.
What you choose to do with this employee feedback depends on your organization and the nature of the information you’ve gathered. If you’ve uncovered a glaring or urgent management problem, you now have a chance to address it. If you discover a culture disconnect, it may point to steps that you can take to ensure better hiring procedures or a cultural change.
Your current and former employees can be valuable recruiters for your company. While you can’t make everyone happy, you can make everyone feel respected, even as they leave your employment.
Often, your competitive edge lies in your people, so listen and learn from their insights when they move on.
The end of an employee’s tenure can be the beginning of productive changes at your company. Make the most of the opportunity!