Regardless of why someone is separating from your company or team, departing employees are a gold mine of information:
* They can provide perspectives 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:
1. Make the exit interview a priority. Communicate its importance both to your HR staff and to the departing employee.
2. 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).
3. 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.
4. 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.