Exit interviews – What can we learn from people resigning?

January is upon us. And with the new year often comes a wave of resignations. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, January is the month when people are mostly likely to consider leaving a job, with a staggering 18% of employees naming it as the most popular month to make a move – “fresh year, fresh start”.

If your organisation is experiencing high staff turnover, you’ll no doubt want to know why. And most importantly, whether you should consider any changes in order to retain your staff. An effective way of doing this is to conduct exit interviews. Conducting an interview with an employee leaving an organisation offers employers the opportunity to identify areas of strength within their organisation along with areas for development. Whilst some people may think of exit interviews as shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, you can actually gain extremely useful information from speaking to staff who are leaving the company.

Exit interviews are best conducted face to face which allows better communication and interpretation of the employee’s thoughts. Fundamentally, exit interviews allow employers to understand an individual’s reasons for leaving which provides benefits for future employee retention and engagement. If conducted correctly exit interviews provide the opportunity to successfully obtain and transfer useful knowledge, insights, experience and tips from the departing employee to existing employees.

Still not convinced? Here are some further benefits of conducting exit interviews:

  • Can provide insights into problems within the organisation which were not obvious
  • Determine real issues within the organisation – departing employees may be more honest about their views
  • Accelerate managers understanding of employees opinions and thoughts of the organisation – hearing and handling feedback is a powerful development process
  • Offer candid review of the organisation’s environment and culture
  • Information gathered can help increase staff retention
  • Allow employees to provide constructive feedback and leave on positive note
  • Identify aspects the employee valued at the organisation
  • Provide information about any differences between employees expectations and their actual job role – invaluable when advertising future job roles
  • Give information about an employee’s new job – insight into what competitors and other organisations are doing
  • Allow an opportunity to review terms of post-employment agreements
  • Provide an opportunity to communicate final questions relating to job handover – smoother transition with new starter

9 do’s and don’ts to get the most out of exit interviews

Do: Give the employee the option not to attend – the employee has no legal obligation to participate in an exit interview

Do: Prepare for the interview ahead of time – your preparation can serve as a guide to keep the conversation flowing (but be sure to ask follow up questions about any issues that the employee may raise)

Do: Consider the best person to hold the interview – you want to ensure that the employee is comfortable and at ease, so they give open feedback

Do: Keep the conversational professional – keep the focus on work-related issues. Don’t give your own opinion and don’t take any comments personally

Do: Listen – listen carefully and recognise opportunities to get more insights about their reasons for leaving and how the company can improve

Don’t: Forget to take notes – you can review these later and pick out key themes about the company’s strengths and weaknesses – and once you’ve held several exit interviews with different employees, you’ll have a valuable amount of information to help you make changes to the culture

Do: Be receptive to feedback – give the employee the opportunity to share feedback about their role, manager and the company culture

Don’t: Gossip about interview answers with co-workers – information shared with you shouldn’t be disclosed to others, unless there was an ethics violation or mention of a hostile work environment

Do: End on a positive note

If you’d like advice in how to structure an exit interview, please do get in touch