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Exit interviews can be seen as a tick-the-box exercise and an unnecessary investment of time into an individual who is no longer part of an organisation. While these interviews provide the platform for departing employees to air any grievances, the process also offers valuable insights for employers. If used correctly, these findings can help to improve a wide range of business functions and reduce future staff turnover.
This process can be utilised strategically and provide genuine value to your business. So what are the key things you need to consider and where does the value lie?
A formal exit interview should be conducted with every employee who leaves, regardless of their reason for departing, their job function or their level of seniority. Junior employees, even those who have been with you for a short period of time, can still have valuable insight into the way that you operate at their end of the business. Equally, senior employees will have insight into strategic and people management operations. If you are only interviewing a select portion of those leaving then you risk missing out on actionable information.
It is vital that an impartial party conducts your exit interviews. Some firms have supervisors or team leaders conducting the exit interviews for people they previously managed. This is very unlikely to garner any truly honest or usable insight. An employee is much less likely to speak openly with a superior, particularly given that issues with managers are very common reasons for employees moving on. Your HR team should be conducting exit interviews, and as an unbiased party, it will make it easier for the departing employee to be honest and raise any concerns or issues they have experienced. After all, this information is what you need to create a comprehensive exit-interview report.
When it comes to an exit interview, individuals tend to be more truthful when they do not need to answer questions in a face-to-face setting. This is particularly true where they have had problems with management or colleagues. Consider offering a digital option, or using one to complement the face-to-face interview. This way you can ensure that you are gathering as much honest feedback as possible.
Conducting the interview is only the start of a well-run exit interview strategy. If you simply file the report away and forget about it this is counterproductive and you are less likely to use your findings to positively impact the business in the future. It is important that you review the report to identify the cause and effect of any issues that were raised. You might choose to review a number of reports together every three months to check for common themes. Alternatively, if a departing employee raises issues that you can rectify easily, it can also pay to be proactive and review each report as it is completed.
Where particular issues are raised, it is always a good idea to share this with the management team of the business function from which the employee departed. If there are improvements to be made, it will be down to those team leaders and managers to do so. However, this information can be sensitive, so it is important to be tactful in how you achieve this – any personal grievances might be best removed from the information you feedback.
Outside of improving the processes and programmes of each business function, you can also use the findings of an exit interview in other ways. For example, your training and development programme is one area that could benefit from the honest feedback of departing employees, as if you are discovering that there are gaps in the development of employees in certain teams, you can address this with the relevant line manager to rectify the issue. Whatever the reason for an employee leaving, there can be learnings and opportunities to improve the skills and processes used by your existing teams. Secondly, you can ensure that staff retention is improved which in turn can be fed into your recruitment strategy.
If you would like any more information please get in touch with one of our specialist consultants or visit our management advice centre that has a wealth of attraction and retention advice on everything from creating a work from home policy to developing future leaders.