Best practices exit interviews are a crucial component of the employee life cycle. They give both the employee and the employer a chance to discuss the employee's time in the company. In many instances, departing employees will not disclose the exact reasons behind their departure in their resignation letters. Herein lies the primary purpose of best practices exit interviews.
Best practices exit interviews are among the most utilized tools for obtaining employee feedback. The less tacit and overt knowledge you gather from employees regularly, the greater the need to capture when they exit. Employees who are leaving their jobs tend to be more honest and objective. In other parts of the world, exit interviews are also called departing employees' confessional interviews. Read
According to a survey by the Harvard Business Review, 75% of companies conduct exit interviews. The same survey found that 44% of companies conduct exit interviews in person, while 26% use an online survey and 18% use a phone interview.
A study by Gallup found that 89% of employees who left their jobs did so for company-related reasons. These include a lack of opportunity for growth and development or a poor relationship with their manager. Another study by Employee Benefit News found that 35% of employees who left their jobs did so because of a lack of career growth opportunities.
According to a survey by HR Daily Advisor, the most common topics covered in your best practice exit interviews include the employee's reason for leaving, their experience working for the company, and their relationship with their manager.
Overall, exit interviews can provide valuable insights into why employees leave a company, which can help the company improve its practices and retain more employees.
Related: Tips for Exit Interviews
Best practices exit interviews: The importance of exit interviews
Knight and O'Donnell discuss the various functions of best practice exit interviews; below I list some of these functions:
- determine the actual causes of voluntary terminations, including the push and pull elements,
- understanding the employee's perception towards the job,
- gather data that will assist management in identifying problem areas and putting in place controls,
- make clear any allegations or grievances against workers who are being forcibly terminated,
- in some cases, [to persuade] the worker to continue working in light of changing conditions,
- Retain the employees' goodwill when they become ex-employee (Goodale, 1982; Zilla 1983).
Best practices exit interviews: How to conduct effective exit interviews
By following best practices for exit interviews, you can ensure that you get the most out of them. This includes ensuring you are neutral and objective and asking open-ended questions to encourage honest feedback. You must also listen without judgement and take action on any problems identified. By doing this, you can improve employee retention rates and create a better working environment.
A study at the Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, Haryana (India) found four best practices exit interview approaches that you can consider adopting. Further reading.
Below I share some effective methods to conduct best practices exit interviews.
- In-person exit interview: Each departing employee participates in this interview by having a private meeting with an HR representative. Such interviews add a personal touch to the procedure and assist in giving you useful and personal information.
- Paper and pencil exit interview: This method uses a form that is either given to the employee on his last day of work or mailed to his home. It is the main exit interview technique. This procedure takes less time than the other exit interview techniques. Employees could feel more at ease discussing information on paper than with a live person.
- Telephonic exit interview: An HR representative or a third party conducts these telephone interviews. It is challenging to have a high participation percentage in these interviews, and staff members are frequently unwilling to discuss sensitive material over the phone.
- Online exit interview: Online exit interviews are done via the internet. Flexibility, privacy, and great reliability are its benefits. The involvement rate of departing employees will be twice as high using this strategy compared to previous methods.
Best practices exit interviews: What to ask
Regarding best practices in exit interviews, it is crucial to ask the correct questions. This helps you to make the most of the experience and gain valuable insights. Process Street published best practices exit interview questions that have been tried and tested. Some key questions to ask include:
- How would you describe the relationship with your manager?
- How would you describe our organizational culture?
- What did you like most about your job? What did you like the least?
- Do you think management adequately recognized employee contributions? If not, how do you think recognition could be improved?
- Do you feel you had the resources and support necessary to accomplish your job? If not, what was missing?
When you ask the right questions as guided by the questions above, you are assured of getting the best out of the employee before they leave.
Best practices exit interviews: 5 Crucial Steps
By following these steps carefully, you can get the most out of exit interviews. It aids in making informed decisions about the future of the organization and people management.
Step 1: Preparation
This is a preliminary stage. It mainly deals with choosing an interview method (some discussed above) and preparing accordingly. Scheduling of the interview and preparation of material is relevant at this stage. I also encourage a thorough appreciation of the role departing to select a relevant panel for the interview. This aids in getting a wider range of information.
Step 2: Communication
This step involves the interview process itself. An effective two-way conversation is key. You must allow the employee time and space to interpret, reflect, comprehend, and honestly respond to questions. This motivates them to provide sincere, constructive criticism. A psychologically safe environment will make the interviewee more forthcoming and objective.
You can also encourage honesty by ensuring confidentiality. Assuring the confidentiality of thoughts expressed throughout the exit interview process can give people the closure they need. It also serves as the perfect transitional tool as they advance in their careers.
Step 3: Structure and format of questions
The right questions can reveal powerful insights you wouldn't otherwise have access to. You can delve deeper by asking open-ended questions like "what," "why," and "how," especially if the initial response is evasive or shallow. Avoid using closed-ended, "yes/no" questions unless you need to affirm something.
You must create a structure for the best practices exit interview to ensure the right questions are asked. This way, all relevant information is gathered. With the right structure, exit interviews can provide information on how employees view their experience with the organization and what could have been done better.
Step 4: Data collection and analysis
The data you collect through best-practice exit interviews can be used to analyze patterns and trends in employee turnover. This enables you to make informed decisions on retaining their valuable talent. With the help of AI-powered analytics tools, you can quickly gather insights from these exit interviews and use them to create better strategies for employee retention.
While gathering input is crucial, fixing recurring errors is impossible without recording responses and spotting long-term trends.
Step 5: Follow-up
The fifth and final step is the most ignored in the best practices exit interview process. Many organizations tend to overlook this step, which has contributed to critics asserting that exit interviews are useless.
Gallia (2019) argues that following a best practice exit interview, you should evaluate the information you have gathered to identify the root cause of the employee's departure and list a few ways they could be addressed. (Further reading).
Best practices exit interviews: Common risks
It is important to note that their drawbacks affect the effectiveness of your best practices exit interviews. These can come from both the employer and the employee. It is important to always safeguard and implement measures to mitigate such risks.
In 2016, The Harvard Business review identified two reasons exit interviews fail to improve retention or produce useful information. The first is data quality. The honesty and forthrightness of the departing employee decide the success of your best practice exit interview.
The second reason is a lack of consensus on best practices. The Harvard business review indicates that exit interview programs' objectives, approaches, and methods differ greatly.
A study by Robyn Johns on an Asia-Pacific-based organization also found common risks with exit interviews. (Further reading). Qualitative evidence indicated that response distortions influenced the effectiveness of best practices exit interviews. This is due to the perceived act of retribution and the underutilization of information gathered by human resources. Below I highlight some of the common risks as informed by the study:
- If there is no procedure to follow up and implement adjustments, the point will be lost even if actionable information is discovered. For ordinary exit interviews to transform into best practices exit interviews over the next months or years, there is a need for a clear framework and process to follow.
- Employees may lack the motivation to be entirely honest because they fear tearing down relationships. In other words, the process might be ineffective and yield little useful information.
- The exit interview could also be heated if there is tension around the employee's departure. Without an obvious benefit, it can cause unneeded trouble and escalate tension.
Best practices exit interviews allow the employer to reflect on an employee's experience and feedback. It is also important to follow up after the interview and keep track of any feedback received.
Brandon Murambinda is an Organisational Design and Development Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm.