Hot Topic – Exit Interviews
Times have changed. In the “old days” (whenever they were) people started at the bottom of a company and spent most of their life there working their way to the top.
Now, “climbing the corporate ladder” has been replaced with stepping from ladder to ladder as people advance their careers.
In fact, according to a recent study by Monster Intelligence cited in the April 2006 issue of Inc. Magazine, 40 percent of the companies surveyed said that turnover had increased over the past 18 months.
Departing employees are a gold mine of information:
- They can provide information that you might not learn from current employees.
- They can clue you in to problem supervisors.
- Their comments can reveal a gap between what is promised in your recruitment material or interviews and what is delivered once someone is working for your firm.
With so much to gain from exit interviews, here are some suggestions on making sure you get the most from them:
- Make the exit interview a priority. Communicate its importance both to your HR staff and to the departing employee.
- Develop a standard interview. This ensures that the interviews will be conducted the same way each time. The best format might include a combination of an in-person interview and a questionnaire to be filled out by the employee. (See below for suggested questions).
- Do the interview before the employee’s last day. Memories fade and motivation to deal with the past evaporates once someone has moved on. Schedule exit interviews before the person’s last day. My preference is to do them shortly after they announce that they’re leaving.
- Create a database for responses. Standardized interview questions let you group data together for analysis. Review interview responses right away and examine the trends regularly. Patterns can help you identify areas in need of focused change (e.g. recruitment, values, goals, policies, salaries, operating procedures).
What should you ask, you ask? Here are some questions to strongly consider:
- When did you start looking for another job, and why?
- As you look back over your experiences here, did they match your expectations when you first joined the company? Why or why not?
- If there was one change that could have been made to significantly improve your experience here, what would that have been?
- What would you say was your most significant contribution to the company?
- What was your most significant disappointment?
Conducting an exit interview also shows departing employees that their opinion is valuable to you. That leaves them with a good feeling about your firm. And that can pay off in the future. How? More and more often, I’ve seen departing employees go to work for a company that is connected somehow to the one they left. Parting on good terms will avoid them bad-mouthing you to other companies.
I’ve also seen them come back to a company they resigned from after finding out that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. With that in mind, encourage departing employees to keep you apprised of their future career changes. Paul Salotto, COO of Result Media, a specialty publisher in West Chester, PA, has used exit interviews to reinforce this idea. “There’s no reason to burn bridges,” says Salotto.
“Sometimes, talented staff leave to pursue what seems like a better opportunity that doesn’t pan out. I want them to know the door is always open.”
What has his success been with rehires? Extremely positive. “They’re often more committed after they return,” Salotto says. “It strengthens the company.”
Great Resource – FREE Directory Assistance
Does your staff make too many directory assistance calls? Depending on where your business is located and your billing plan, you might be paying more than $2 per directory assistance call. You might be tempted to distribute a memo asking people to look things up in a phone book instead of calling directory assistance, but here are two even better alternatives:
(1) http://www.411.com is a free online telephone and address directory. Employees can use it to look up telephone numbers, do reverse telephone and address lookups, and find the right zip code for an address. It’s faster than the phone book (I recycled mine months ago) and works well.
(2) 1-800-FREE411 is a Toll Free directory assistance service. Really, I tried it. Simply call their number from any phone, and an automated system guides you through the process of getting the number you need. Depending on the type and location of the number requested, a brief advertising message may play before you’re connected to the number. They also have a website, http://www.free411.com.
The Lost (and then found) Plotz Memos:
I recently came into possession of a dusty carton of memos written by CEO Max M. Plotz. If you’ve never heard of him (and I suspect you haven’t) Plotz was a mercurial but compassionate man who ran Consolidated Candies (with plants in Lahaska, PA and the Mayfair section of Philadelphia) from the 1940s through the early 1970s. He was well known for the memos he wrote to his staff. Those memos were often terse, sometimes funny, and always filled with valuable wisdom. I have received permission from the Plotz family to reprint his memos in The Weiman Consulting Letter. I hope you find them as valuable as I did.
To: The Staff
From: Max M. Plotz, CEO
Date: April 3, 1964
Subject: The Reception Desk
For the past few weeks, I’ve noticed several people around Miss Tennyson’s reception desk chatting in the early morning and late afternoon.
Our recent time-motion study results showed the following — The receptionist position can be accomplished with the labor of one person: The receptionist.
I’m sure Miss Tennyson appreciates the company and encouragement she’s getting from the staff who stop by her desk while she is answering the phone, typing invoices, and opening correspondence.
But who is doing your job while you’re at her desk? No one.
To make money, we have to make candy. So, please allow Miss Tennyson to continue to do her job by herself. And you’ll be allowed to continue to do yours.