What an employee’s ‘last words’ can do for your company
Any employee resignation has the potential to affect morale, increase the workloads of remaining employees and put customer relationships at risk. Although an employee departure can create challenges, your company also can gain from the experience by conducting an exit interview.
An exit interview lets you uncover and fix problems in your business. By taking action to address concerns that a departing employee may raise, you can improve your company’s culture and reduce future turnover.
Dodge Common Exit Interview Errors
To deliver valuable information, exit interviews must be performed correctly. Here’s how your company can avoid common mistakes:
Take the process seriously. // Make an exit interview a scheduled part of an employee’s departure checklist, not an optional one.
Get the timing right. // Companies err when they request exit interviews weeks, or even months, after the employee leaves. Conducting the interview before the employee leaves ensures more accurate feedback.
Choose the interviewer carefully. // A direct supervisor should not conduct the exit interview when it is done in person. In such cases, the employee is less likely to be forthright than he or she would be with a neutral party. A human resources professional or an experienced, third-party consultant may be best equipped to conduct the interview. Choose a professional who recognizes “red flag” words or phrases and is adept at getting thorough feedback on issues that could create problems for the organization.
Take action if the employee raises concerns. // Employees leave for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the motivations are benign, such as making a move because the new employer’s dress code is more casual or the new location offers a shorter daily commute. But if you learn from an exit interview that an employee has raised issues about working conditions—safety violations or a situation in which he or she felt discriminated against, for example—take quick action to investigate the claims, take disciplinary action if needed and provide training or implement other measures that address and mitigate the problems. Then contact the employee who left to advise you’ve remedied the situation he or she reported.
Remember that an employee who leave may tell your other workers what came up in the exit interview. Failing to attend to problems can negatively affect company morale—or even put you at risk for a lawsuit.
Choose the Right Method
Both online and in-person exit interviews can work effectively. Here are some reasons why you might choose one method over
Consider conducting online interviews if:
» Your company is tech-oriented or primarily employs younger workers, who may feel more comfortable providing written answers than interacting with an interviewer.
» You don’t have access to a neutral party to conduct an in-person interview.
» You have the resources to compile and analyze data from online interviews.
Consider holding in-person interviews if:
» Your employees don’t have daily access to computers or other devices on which they might complete an online interview.
» Employees would be reluctant to openly share feedback in writing.
» You want to ensure the interview is completed. A sit-down interview can be scheduled and completed at a time controlled by the company.
» You want a chance to probe for details, get the employee to clarify responses and observe body language and tone of voice.
Get the Most From an Exit Interview
Think of an exit interview as a company evaluation. It’s your chance not only to learn where problems may exist, but also to confirm what you’re doing right. To get the most valuable information:
» Ask a structured list of questions based on the information you want to capture.
» Don’t accept broad answers. Ask for specific reasons the employee is moving on and inquire about details of his or her work experience at the company.
» Compile exit interview data. Look for patterns by department, region or supervisors. For example, you may learn that your pay rates in a particular region of the country are too low to retain qualified workers. Evaluating this data and correcting broad concerns can help you retain future hires.
» Ask what your company is doing well. The information you receive can help you know how to better recruit the next good employee. For example, if you learn employees generally don’t want to commute more than a certain distance to work, you might focus future recruiting efforts on geographical areas within that range. It also may give insight into how you could one day re-recruit a departing top performer.
Exit interviews represent a significant opportunity to both pinpoint your company’s best employee practices and identify risks. Done right, these “last word” conversations can deliver information that, over time, helps your business improve and grow.