Many managers mistakenly assume that exit interviews are just a formality they must get through when an employee resigns. They go through the motions, not realizing how much information can be gleaned from an exiting employee when the interview is conductedeffectively. In fact, effective exit interviews can help aid in future employee retention by alerting managers to issues among the organization they might’ve been previously unaware of. So, before you conduct your next exit interview, consider the following tips:
Arrange a one-on-one meeting
Sometimes, companies have multiple managers sit in on exit interviews, reasoning that it’s helpful to have many ears present to listen to the feedback given. Even though well-intentioned in theory, this is almost never a good idea in practice. Having more than one manager conduct an exit interview automatically puts the resigning employee on the defensive; it creates a “me against them” mentality. So, pick one manager or HR representative to conduct the exit interview; avoid choosing the departing employee’s direct supervisor if possible.
Feedback given during an exit interview is only helpful if it’s honest and uncensored. Thus, it’s essential to assure the departing employee that anything shared during the exit interview will be confidential; if feedback is addressed with management later, it will be done anonymously. That way, the resigning employee doesn’t have to worry about burning bridges with co-workers or supervisors.
Explain the purpose of the meeting
After letting the employee know that the exit interview will be confidential, explain the purpose of the meeting to him. Essentially, the primary purpose of an exit interview is to become aware of and address any problems that might negatively impact employee retention. Remember: the purpose of an exit interview is not an attempt to convince the employee to change his mind about the resignation.
Brevity is key
Very few departing employees are interested in participating in an hours-long exit interview. To avoid making this process time-consuming, brainstorm areas you want to address with the employee beforehand. That way, you can get right to the point and save valuable company time.
Ask thoughtful questions
You get out of an exit interview what you put into it. Thus, if you ask questions that don’t require a thoughtful response, you won’t get any valuable feedback. So, what kinds of questions should you consider asking during an exit interview? Here are a few examples:
- Describe the morale of employees in your department/this company.
- In your opinion, what can we do to make this company a highly desirable place to work?
- Do you feel that workloads were fairly distributed among your department? Why or why not?
- How can this company do a better job recognizing employee accomplishments?
- Do you feel that there are opportunities for both personal and professional growth within your department/this company? Why or why not?
Use the information gathered to make positive changes
If you conduct effective exit interviews, you can gather valuable information from departing employees. However, if you don’t do anything with that information, exit interviews are essentially useless. Each time you conduct an exit interview, really examine the feedback you are given. Then, look for patterns in feedback; is there an issue that’s repeatedly mentioned by departing employees? Once you discover similarities in feedback, brainstorm ways that improvements can be made in these areas. It might not be realistic to make changes in every area of concern mentioned during exit interviews, but consider what can be done to avoid turnover down the road.
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