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Employee Centricity
How to make exit interviews count
Aishwarya Sinha Ray
August 31, 2021

It is an awful thing when an excellent employee leaves. In fact, it’s difficult when any loyal employee decides to move ahead in their career to pursue their professional goals. In such situations, being critical or apathetic only brings down the morale of the employee as well as the concerned team. Therefore, an exit interview process should be a priority when an employee leaves, whether they get terminated. It gives you valuable information about your company and your employees. Further, conducting exit interviews is an opportunity to grow as an organisation and stay prepared for similar circumstances in the future.

What is an exit interview?

As the name suggests, an exit interview is a meeting with an employee that takes place before they offer their resignation when they want to leave the company. A member of HR or management usually leads the interview. The direct reporting manager of the employee must also attend for support and knowledge.

These interviews are useful as they provide valuable information about the company from the employee’s perspective. The employee doesn’t necessarily have to leave with a negative reason. It is a good time to get to know the actual reason and in fact, make the employee feel better about it

Why invest in exit interviews?

Exit interviews are helpful in identifying information that might otherwise go unnoticed or unrevealed. As a result, exit interviews are an inexpensive and quick way to gather a large amount of data about the functioning of the company. This data can play a crucial role in designing recruitment as well as business strategy.

Exit interviews give business leaders and team managers a better understanding of what employees do and how they feel about it. The usual work days are quite busy for all employees so there’s no harm to assume that leaders and managers, too, are often occupied. That’s why perhaps they don’t usually get the time to connect and hence, they get to make the best use of exit interviews.

If employers use the information from exit interviews in such a way that employees see changes, they will feel more understood and respected. These feelings play a crucial role in improving retention, engagement, and satisfaction.

How to make the exit interview process count?

1. Conduct interviews with every employee who leaves

Try to have exit interviews with as many employees as possible. If the interviews cannot be face-to-face, try sending an email survey to the employee. You can even call them up and check with them regarding the survey completion.

2. Always pick the best interviewer

Most of the times exit interviews are done by the HR department. In some ways, this makes sense as employees may not feel comfortable speaking openly with their own supervisors or team leads. However, both HR and managers can involve themselves in this important process.

A study from the Harvard Business Review found that interviews conducted by an employee’s supervisor’s manager will most likely produce the required change.

3. Find the best time

The interview should take place in the last few days of employment. If it is done too early, the employee may not feel they can speak honestly and openly. Hence, the whole purpose of conducting the exit interview will be defeated.

4. Provide a structure and a form

Make the most of the exit interview with a form or a plan for the meeting. With targeted questions, employers can get the most information in the limited amount of time. 

5. Make confidentiality clear

Employees need to know that their feedback is confidential and anonymous. They need to know how their thoughts will be used to improve the business process. In fact, give them some confidence that you will use their input in various forms and functionalities so that they can be as elaborate as possible.

6. Ask important questions

Asking good questions is key to a successful exit interview process. When an employee leaves, the employer is able to ask questions that they may not have been able to ask before. Be a bit careful about the sentiments of the employee before asking a question. You can take reference from the following questions and improvise your own list:

  1. How would you describe the company and the job to a friend?
  2. How would your coworkers describe their jobs?
  3. How did we make your job easier or more difficult?
  4. How could we improve?
  5. What did you like or dislike about your job?
  6. What did you think about management?
  7. How can the management make improvements?

7. Leave the employee feeling good

The exit interview is sometimes the last interaction an employee will have with management or HR. It is important to be patient, friendly, and positive. The employee that leaves will either spread positive things about the company or negative things about the company, sometimes depending on how they were treated when they left. Give the company the best chance by making the exit interview a positive experience.

8. Have more than one interview

Some companies have the first interview, but also a follow-up interview a few months later.

According to research, employees can change their opinions when given time to reflect. 59% changed their reasons for leaving and 100% gave a reason for leaving in the follow-up interview even if they didn’t give one in the first interview.

There are many steps to planning a productive exit interview, but, when done correctly, they provide benefits to the company and to the remaining employees. Making the most of when an employee leaves by having an excellent exit interview is a good step toward saving money, improving engagement, and increasing retention.

9. Conduct exit interviews in person

Although exit interviews can be conducted via written or online surveys, over the phone, through chat or email, the best practice is to conduct them in person.

In other words, the interviewer will be able to read an employee’s body language and ask follow up questions in order to get the most out of these interviews.

10. Make the exit interview like a regular one-on-one

Make sure you conduct an exit interview in a private setting, one-on-one - just an interviewer and a departing employee.

Conducting an exit interview in a public setting or in a panel style interview with multiple interviewers can be intimidating for your departing employees.

11. Create an atmosphere that’s comfortable

The key to a successful exit interview is to ensure all the required conditions for an open, honest conversation.

That way, you will create an atmosphere in which employees who are leaving will feel comfortable and safe.

12. Explain the purpose of exit interviews

State clearly that you conduct these interviews in order to make positive changes.

Ask for their help and highlight how much you’d value their honesty and constructive feedback.

13. Be consistent with your speech

My final tip for conducting exit interviews is to be consistent. What do I mean by that?

Ask all your leaving employees the same set of predetermined exit interview questions to maintain honesty and consistency.

Top 3 benefits of exit interviews:

Cut employee turnover costs

Exit interviews are an employer’s unique chance to find out why their employees choose to leave.

During exit interviews, employers can get valuable data regarding the employee's working experience.

Doing this will enhance their company’s retention rates. Employers will save a significant amount of money associated with high employee turnover

Enhance recruiting

Exit interviews are extremely useful for attracting employees.

By using the information from the employees who leave, employers can adjust and improve their employee value proposition.

Provide closure

Exit interview processes are important because they provide closure to the employer as well as to the employees.

An ideal exit interview will make both parties feel good about their experience together. This will allow them to maintain a positive work relationship even after they don’t work together any longer.

Conclusion : Make exit interviews as useful as possible

Exit interviews are a very useful HR tool for gaining valuable insights into a company’s ability to attract and retain the best employees.

However, you shouldn’t rely on exit interviews as the only source of information about employee experience in your company.

You should conduct recurring employee interviews, check-ins and surveys in order to get feedback and obtain data on employee experience, job satisfaction, employee engagement and employee retention in your company.

Conducting these surveys on a regular basis will ensure that you obtain all the relevant information on time to act upon it.

That way, you’ll have enough time to intervene and fix the relationships and working conditions at your company in order to keep your employees happy and engaged - and far away from exit interviews in the first place! 

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