When an employee resigns, it’s all too easy to dismiss their input before they’ve even packed up their desk. After all, they’re leaving so what can they offer? But an employee exit interview can be a rich source of information which can help you identify problems and make improvements.
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is not dissimilar to an interview when you’re recruiting someone but rather than assessing someone’s ability for the job you’re quizzing them about their reasons for leaving and areas for company improvement. It’s your opportunity to find out what areas your business is doing well in and what areas need a bit of improvement. It’s also a chance to make sure your employee leaves happy and, occasionally, encourage them to stay under new circumstances.
Why are exit interviews important?
If done well and properly, exit interviews can give you great insights into your business and aid with employee engagement and satisfaction. It’s also a chance to hear from a more honest staff perspective – after all you’re highly unlikely to get such frank answers from current employees.
In addition, exit interviews can contribute to staff retention. SMEs are facing a skills shortage endemic meaning the focus is being put on upskilling current staff to bridge the increasing skills gap. Equally, recruiting and training staff can be an expensive business and if you’re experiencing high staff turnover, then something isn’t working properly. Exit interviews are a good way to discover what the problem is and to fix it. It may be too late for employees who are already leaving but it can help you put in place a strategy to reduce your staff turnover and ultimately bring down costs.
They can also add value to your company culture and staff performance. With exit interviews, or indeed anonymous exit questionnaires, you can start to identify trends which, in turn, can inform your overall company strategy and the way you’re perceived as an employer. They can help you repeat good experiences for other employees and help you avoid repeating the bad ones in the future.
Best practice for conducting an exit interview
Exit interviews are a valuable tool but they need to be carried out correctly if you want to get the most out of them. You also need to be prepared to hear some brutally frank answers. Remember, some people will want to vent and you could face a barrage of months or years of pent up frustration.
When to conduct an exit interview
It’s always best to conduct an interview face to face. You can ask for written feedback from an employee but they might be a little less frank if you’re asking them to fill in a questionnaire.
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. And, where possible, have someone who isn’t your employee’s direct line manager conduct the interview. It’s also good practice to let them know they don’t have to answer all your questions and to ask if they mind any information being shared with other management.
What to ask in an exit interview
Ask your employee why they are leaving, what the company is doing well and what could be improved upon. Ask if there is anything that could be done to make the situation that’s causing them to leave better and what their general feelings are about the company and working there.
You can also ask what other employees think generally about working for your company as well as what things they enjoyed most and what things they would most like to change.
You should keep alert for any allegations of harassment or discrimination and those should be dealt with following your normal procedures. Try not to ask targeted questions about specific people or situations and definitely don’t fuel the flames of office gossip. You need to maintain a professional position and avoid discussing personal relationships with them. You also need to avoid discussing the specifics of any other employees with a departing employee.
Finally, as we said before you can also use the exit interview as a forum to get someone to stay under different circumstances. However, if they matter to you that much you should ideally have that conversation with them at resignation and long before you reach exit interview stage.