When an employee leaves your company, the costs associated with finding a replacement, lost productivity, or increased overtime can add up. Conducting exit interviews with departing employees can help limit future turnover and identify areas where your business needs improvement. Exit interviews also create an opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience from the departing employee to a successor or replacement.
Here are eight tips for conducting effective exit interviews:
#1: Be consistent.
Try to conduct exit interviews with each employee who leaves the company voluntarily (those who resign or retire). Use the same core set of questions so that you can identify trends and develop plans for improvement.
#2: Use pre-exit interview questionnaires.
Ask employees to complete a pre-exit interview questionnaire to help identify areas for discussion during the meeting. Look for the reasons the employee is leaving, how long they considered leaving, how satisfied they were with their job, and any suggestions for improvement.
#3: Assign a neutral interviewer.
Have a neutral party conduct the interview, rather than the employee's direct supervisor. This can lead to a more open and honest interview. Train interviewers on the types of questions to ask as well as how to build rapport, ask open-ended questions, and probe for more detailed responses.
#4: Encourage candor.
Some employees may be reluctant to share information because they fear it will affect their eligibility for rehire, or that it will result in a negative reference to a prospective employer. While not every employee will be candid during an exit interview, there are some things you can do to encourage employees to be more forthcoming. For example, inform departing employees of the purpose of the interview and remind them that their honest feedback will contribute to workplace improvements. Stress that while exit interview reports will be provided to management, the reports are anonymous. During the exit interview, pose open-ended questions and allow the individual to speak freely.
#5: Probe reasons for leaving.
An employee's reasons for leaving are often complex. In some cases, the individual may initially cite reasons that they believe are more acceptable (such as, "better pay") than their true motivations (such as, "this job didn't challenge me"). Ask questions that delve fully into the reason for leaving and don't be afraid to probe for specific examples. Focus on how the employee was treated and ask follow-up questions (such as "what other factors led to your decision to leave?" or "what could have been done differently?"), even if the individual initially indicates a reason that is out of the company's control.
#6: Ensure the transfer of knowledge.
Departing employees often take with them valuable knowledge and experience. As soon as you know an employee is leaving, have them document critical processes and cross-train other employees. During the exit interview, verify that the knowledge-transfer process has been completed and check on the status of any pending projects.
#7: Discuss final pay and tie up loose ends.
The exit interview is also a time to collect company property and discuss final pay and benefits, such as retirement accounts and health insurance continuation. At the end of the meeting, wish the employee well and thank them for working for your company.
#8: Track, report, and act.
Following the interview, log the data, look for patterns or areas of concern, and create an action plan for improvement. For example, if poor communication is a consistent factor in losing top talent, consider making regular communication a priority and training managers on effective communication skills.
Consistent and effective exit interviews can help address weaknesses before the next employee leaves and can help ensure the transfer of knowledge to a successor or replacement.