Employers can find many ways to ascertain the ‘mood’ of the workers in their employ. If they are unable to do so, they shouldn’t be in business. However, my professional organization states that there are good things that can come from an exit interview and I do believe that if an employer treats employees with respect and dignity no matter what the economic situation or circumstances in the business, then positive information can possibly be gained from a few minutes with an employee who is, hopefully, off to another adventure.
In the past, exit interview data was being collected by organizations but not much was being done in terms of interpreting the data and making it actionable. The average participation rate for a paper/pencil exit interviews is approximately 35%. Today there are metrics, analytics, benchmarks and best practices that help organizations make sense of and use the data towards proactive organizational retention programs (sounds ominous, doesn’t it?) There is now even exit interview software available. These programs facilitate and streamline the employee separation process, allow surveys to be completed via the web, make separations and retention trends easy to identify and mass actionable data which can increase organizational effectiveness and productivity. The primary reason to have these programs is to be able to more accurately understand why employees are leaving an organization.
I think that corporate insecurity and defensiveness can be an obstacle in implementing exit interview processes. Years ago, I had a consulting contract with a large Non-Profit in eastern Ohio…I was brought on to integrate the staff and volunteers into a cohesive ‘group’….I was also being asked to be an ‘advisor’ for all HR issues since the only person in the employ of the NP that was doing any HR was the Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director. Shortly after beginning my three (3) day a week assignment, a high level employee handed in his notice. I recommended an exit interview since I was already hearing the rumblings of poor morale in the work place. The bottom line is that the Executive Director agreed that the exit interview take place when I recommended it to her, however, she insisted on doing the interview herself. Now, does anyone reading this think that she could have received a slightly ‘skewed’ story from the outbound employee if she was the cause of the poor morale?
If I could give any advice to those employees that do decide to partake in an exit interview, it is to do it in writing and to remember that positive feedback will have much more of an impact than negative feedback will…you can say the same thing in a positive tone and have a lasting impression with the good will that you intend….yes, they might have been disgusting, corrupt lying scum bags but what does it do to or for you by behaving as they do….nothing. And, trust me….I’ve tried….if you are dealing with a company that is run by scums, not a thing you say will make a difference….however, if you have been working for individuals who have tried their best to keep the company above water and to please its employees only to have failed to do so, then a little advice may go a long way…remember, some day you may want to return to the organization…situations and people do change. The 'minister' and the fat lady just may not be there in the not too distant future….
The fact is that people that leave an organization do actually possess useful and often critical knowledge and experience. Moreover, most departing employees, depending on the situation of the departure, of course, would be delighted to share this knowledge under the correct circumstances. So much depends on the atmosphere of the departure and the reason for the departure. In an ideal world, the leaver should be encouraged and enabled to hold a brief departure meeting with a prospective replacement.
There are times that exit interviews take the place of performance evaluations in situations where someone is working as a paid Intern or a University Fellow. An exit interview, by definition, should not be used to criticize the employee or the supervisor. It should and can be used to constructively criticize the position, the culture and the organization.
The following is a list of questions that I recommend be utilized in an exit interview Questionnaire, which would make the process appealing for both sides and can be beneficial in any type of corporate exit:
*Tell me about how and why you have come to leave the organization.
*What is your main reason for leaving?
*What are the other reasons you are leaving?
*Why are these reasons important or significant for you?
*What could have been done early on to prevent the situation/problems to have been averted/dealt with satisfactorily?
*What can you say about the processes and procedures or systems that have contributed to the problems/your decision to leave?
*What specific suggestions would you have for how the organization could manage the situation/these i issues better in the future?
*How do you feel about the organization?
*What has been good/enjoyable/satisfactory for you during your time with us?
*What has been frustrating/difficult/upsetting for you in your time with us?
*What could you have done better or more for us had we given you the opportunity?
*What extra responsibility would you have welcomed that you were not given?
*How could the organization have enabled you to make fuller use of your capabilities and potential?
*What training would you have liked or needed that you did not get, and what effect would this have had?
*How well do you think your training and development needs were assessed and met?
*What training and development that you had did you find most helpful and enjoyable?
*What can you say about communications within the organization/your department?
*How would you describe the culture or feel of the organization?
*What suggestion would you make to improve working conditions, hours, shifts, amenities, etc.?
*What can the organization do to retain its best people and not lose people like you?
*How and when would you prefer to pass on your knowledge to your successor?
Remember, from both an employer and employee perspective, you will derive most for the organization and the departing employee by being positive, constructive, understanding and helpful, prior to and during the exit interview process. Treat people with integrity and decency and generally they will respond in kind.
If you have any questions regarding the exit interview process or would like some face to face advice regarding exit interviews, please contact Rosanne Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 484-798-1236.
I have had a few ‘Exit Interviews’....both of which were as a result of me moving to another part of the country…they were pleasant Exit Interviews….but, most people leaving an organization are not leaving due to a relocation across the country.
Statistics state that the interviews are an important step in future employee retention. The ‘official’ definition of an exit interview is the meeting a company’s HR department has with an employee who has been terminated, laid off or has resigned. By law, a terminated/laid off/resigning employee does not have to participate in an Exit Interview and with many companies and how they handle business, the employee would be justified.
The main reason for an exit interview is for the company to improve the way they run things and to help insure that they are not going to lose another group of employees by making the same mistake(s). According to a white paper written by members of SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management), an exit interview represents a prime opportunity to gain information on employment conditions within a company. I perceive that this is not realistic in most circumstances. I think that the ‘average’ employer that thinks they are going to obtain credible information from the ‘average’ terminating employee slightly delusional.