Exit Interviews

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis

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12 Oct 2018

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Nobody will work for you forever. Inevitably, employees will move on from your company, though you may not always understand why.

It could get to where you are seeing an unusual amount of employee turnover, resulting in a downturn in profits. They make it worse when more experienced employees leave. 

This is where exit interviews come in.

With the help of exit interviews, you can identify some issues which cause your employees to leave and will allow you to improve.

Here, we’ll show you what an exit interview is and how you can use them to prevent any further brain drain from the company.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview, also known as a departure interview, is an exchange of ideas between an employer and employee at the end of their contract. Beyond this, the specifics of the interview can vary significantly.

It is a chance to get some candid, honest feedback from employees about to leave. As they no longer rely on the company to support their livelihood, they are more likely to give you some honest insights into how the company is run.

It is not a legal requirement to have these, so not all companies do them. However, because of their value, this is rare.

Why should I do an exit interview?

You always want to keep your most valued employees and reduce turnover. Studies show that high turnover causes low performance within the organisation. So keeping employees allows for more consistent productivity.

So one way to prevent employee turnover is to understand why they left in the first place. And exit interviews are the most powerful tools that you can use to achieve this.

With skilled employees becoming more important with a tertiary economy, it is important to  learn from them:

  • What they want
  • Why they stay
  • Why they leave

An exit interview allows you to generate data on these key points. It generates a data pool which you can analyse and create strategies to improve company culture and reduce turnover.

So with the data from the exit interview, you can increase productivity and decrease turnover by surveying employees as they end their relationship with the organisation.

How to conduct an exit interview

While they have great value, if not conducted correctly, an exit interview loses all that value. Therefore, you must know the right exit interview questions to ask,

Goals of an exit interview

An exit interview is an opportunity for employers to better understand what they are doing right and identify areas for improvement. But you need clear goals to help establish this.

In shaping your exit interview policy and strategy, you should focus on six goals:

  • Find issues relating to HR: improves internal policies
  • Learn about attitudes towards work: improve workplace motivation and satisfaction.
  • Gain insight into managers' effectiveness: help managers tailor their style.
  • Learn about competitors: see what they are offering their talent.
  • Gather ideas for improvement: allow for broad ideas for improvement to be discussed.
  • Have employees leave on a positive note: improve company reputation.

Ensure everyone has an exit interview

Every person that leaves your company deserves an exit interview. There are a few practitioners out there who will tell you to only conduct them with your star performers (the ones you really want to keep) and not to worry about ‘trouble-makers’.

If you’re discarding the experiences of so-called ‘trouble-makers’ then you’re going to miss out on the crucial information that could tell you why that hire turned into a ‘troublemaker.’ Perhaps there is something wrong with how you managed the role that makes it harder for people to succeed. Unless you ask, you’ll never know.

What format should exit interviews take?

It is best for these to take place face-to-face as it allows for rapport, though a phone interview or video call can work too. To compliment this meeting, an exit survey/questionnaire is a great way to gather data from employee exit interviews.

The person who's most familiar with your outgoing employee's work is their direct supervisor. But it's best if someone else conducts the exit interview. If people are leaving because of their manager, they probably won’t say so if their manager does their exit interview. They may also keep quiet to get a good reference.

An HR team member usually is the best option, because they can focus on role-specific issues and complaints or suggestions for the organisation. Some companies choose to have external consultants perform exit interviews.

When to conduct the interview

Schedule any meeting at the very end of your employee’s notice period or contract end, normally just a few days prior to that date. Before this, they will not be as free with their thoughts.

Questions to ask in an exit interview

Prepare your interview questions. Although you don’t want to make the exit interview look scripted, make sure you cover important topics before your employee leaves.

Don’t forget to promise confidentiality and try to keep a casual and friendly tone to let the conversation flow.

Here are some questions which you can ask departing employees:

  • Please describe your general feelings about working here. If possible, please tell us what caused you to leave.
  • What did you enjoy most about working here?
  • If you could change three things, what would they be?
  • How do you feel your supervisor and your coworkers treated you?
  • How well do you believe your work was recognised and appreciated?
  • Do you feel we gave you adequate training, development opportunities and assistance?
  • Are there things you wish you had known earlier?
  • Do you think we aligned your work with your personal goals?
  • What could we do to make this company a better place to work?

And here are some questions not to ask:

  • What can we do to make you stay? - it is too late for this, the purpose is to learn about their perspective.
  • Why didn’t you like working here? - overly negative questions leave less room for constructive feedback.
  • Is there anyone else who should be leaving instead of you? - don’t let things get too personal, you want feedback on management and employees but don’t get into a blame game.

Expert support on Exit Interviews with Croner

Every employer will have to manage employees leaving the company. While it is natural, you want to ensure it doesn’t become brain drain. This will reduce your productivity and profits.

We will draft you effective exit interview surveys and even conduct meetings with the employee on your behalf.

Our experts provide free help, support, and advice tailored to your requirements. Call us for free today for any other exit interview tips for employers. <number.>

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.

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