Employee ExperienceStrategic HRTalent

Why Exit Interviews are a Treasury of Information?

Companies are focused so much on the recruitment and interview processes when it comes to employing new talents that they forget the importance of exit interviews (EI) for those who have already been a part of their culture.

While putting all their efforts to replace as quickly as possible the person who is leaving, many companies forget to use an important method to gain insights about why the employee is leaving and how that reason could further influence their overall business success – exit interviews.

The costs of replacing employees are significant and it is always better to prevent them from happening rather than spending any amount of money, time and resources to find replacements.

One of the best ways to uncover any issues that may be affecting the productivity of the employees, their communication, motivation or overall culture is an exit interview. Conducted in a face-to-face way or through surveys, it can provide valuable information from the leaving employees about the issues that should be addressed to reduce turnover.

 “…The primary reasons an employee quits is less about compensation and perks, and more about unclear expectations and a lack of trust with their manager.”

Traci Wilk

SVP, THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Even though many employees are leaving the companies because of low salaries or inadequate or insufficient benefits, exit interviews can highlight even deeper systemic problems such as bad management, inadequate career development opportunities, poor company culture, etc.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Here are some of the reasons that support the use of the exit interviews:

They can reveal open issues that HR or CEO might not know

When leaving the company, employees tend to be more sincere when giving feedback compared to when they are employed. The reason for leaving the company expressed during the exit interview might be a valuable one for the CEO or the HR. It might reveal issues that are not visible or known to all the employees. By knowing the reasons people leave, it can be easier for companies to find ways to solve the issues and reduce turnover.

Insights about company procedures

Is the recruitment process efficient enough? How about onboarding, is it educational and engaging enough? Does the company provide enough training for its employees? These are the questions that departing employees can give answers to which can help companies review the processes and procedures as they are and improve them. 

They are cost-effective

Exit interviews require no financial costs (unless the company hires a professional to conduct them). Since they can be conducted face-to-face or through surveys, they do not require any expenses and can be conducted at any moment, multiple times. It is only important to know when is a good time to have an exit interview with the departing employee.

Alumni companies

Isn’t it a great advantage for any company to stay connected with its former employees? The benefits are numerous! Imagine the possibility of having an “alumni channel” where former employees can always recommend new talents to hire. Sounds amazing, right? Also, they could recommend new or better practices for the company to support its growth.

An exit interview might be a good chance to introduce this idea to leaving employees. With this, companies will show that they still care about and value their opinions and recommendations. Your company does not have to be like all the others who thank employees for their effort and say goodbye. Being an alumni company enables you the possibility of having a valuable ex-employee network!

TIMING & THE METHOD ARE IMPORTANT

Many companies conduct exit interviews during the last week of employee’s work in the company. Some experts claim this is wrong.

According to them, in this period the employee is already disengaged and unmotivated to contribute to the company in any way. They say the best time to conduct the interview is halfway between the announcement of an intention to leave and the actual departure. (source: hbr.org)

The companies who take this approach seriously conduct the interview two times. The first one is in the period when the employee announces his departure. The second one is a month after the employee has left the company. Experts say this is the period when employees are the most open to sharing actual reasons for leaving, which might be even more sincere than the reasons and thoughts that were given in the first interview. 

As for the method, companies tend to combine both face-to-face and surveys. Some companies conduct it via phone also. The company should decide itself the most effective method, however, it is important to know that face-to-face exit interviews should not be neglected.

For whatever reasons the employee is leaving the company, having a sincere talk about the reasons (preferably one on one) is one of the best ways to show them that the company still cares about them and values their perspective on processes or issues that should be improved. 

USING THE DATA

If a company has an HR, they should be the ones collecting the data and presenting it to the CEO. If a company does not have an HR, the manager of the departing employee is the one to collect the data and present it to the CEO.

But, it is not enough only to collect the data and present it. A follow-up is needed to use the data most efficiently, that is, tackle the ongoing issues. 

It is important to ask the right questions and to know how to analyze them. Collecting and analyzing the data from EI properly can help companies understand:

  • the reason any employee leaves
  • the factors that motivated the employee to be the most productive
  • how employees perceive company culture
  • how competitive a company is when it comes to wages, benefits
  • how much a company invests into the education of employees
  • how well the management cooperates with employees
  • how well the jobs are designed (is there too much pressure or too few things to do)

and it can help companies get solutions from departing employees on how to improve any aspect that was the key factor that made the employee leave the job.

Here’s an interesting question – should EI be mandatory?

For some companies EI is mandatory. These companies understand the importance of the information they can obtain through this kind of interview and can act upon it. 

If it’s not mandatory, the chances for companies to have an insight into ongoing issues might significantly decrease. Imagine the amount of information that is lost anytime an employee leaves the company.

Their perspective on culture, processes, what bothered them, what was the communication among employees and managers, should the job be designed differently, should the company improve their benefits program, or onboarding or take better care of the employees’ mental health…

All of these can be highly important to know for any company. Not knowing all of these and still having people leaving the company might be a “dead end” for the company’s success.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS

on how to have more productive exit interviews:

Be careful with the questions

The exit interview should only be about the employee and his reasons for leaving. Don’t ask questions such as “How do your colleagues feel about…” You might not get a sincere answer or you will get no answer at all. Make it all about their feelings “How does that make you feel…?”

Personalize

Don’t use standard forms that can be found on the internet. Just think that the company will have to find a replacement for the same position, so it’s important to remove any obstacles that made the previous employee leave. Think thoroughly about their job, daily challenges, managers, etc., and ask questions related to the job.

Ask for suggestions

Having answers that only refer to problems is okay but make the EI data better by asking for solutions. Maybe the departing employee can suggest solutions that no one so far has thought of, that can be beneficial for the job itself and the company. 

Interview all the departing employees

Do not think that only employees with managerial positions should be interviewed. Everyone’s opinions and experiences are important. Make sure that every person who wants to leave the company is interviewed in this way.

Confidentiality

Before giving you answers, the employee should be informed and convinced that his or her answers will be confidential and will serve only to improve any segment that did not function well. If their results will be shared with the HR, CEO, etc. be sure to inform them.

Listening

An interviewer should be a person with good listening skills. The employees are the ones who should talk the most, describe their experiences, both positive and negative, and provide solutions. An interviewer should not try to convince them they are wrong but rather lead them to talk about their job journey more. The more they talk, the more information an interviewer can obtain. Of course, politeness and patience are a must for an interviewer.

ONE THING TO BEAR IN MIND

is that companies should talk with their employees and check their opinions and feelings about their jobs more often than just during an exit interview. In this way, it will be easier to find solutions for issues and solve them rather than challenging the financial and other difficulties of “an empty seat” until the company finds a perfect match. 

The essence of every exit interview is to explore the overall employee experience and it must be followed by action. However, if an employee wants to leave the company, it is suggested to make EI mandatory for every departing employee.

Before that, the person who will conduct the interview should take into consideration the right time to conduct it, the right and personalized questions that the interview should contain, and how the data will be used later. 

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