Exit interviews – sometimes overlooked or simply undertaken as a tick box exercise before your departing employee waves goodbye, hands in their ID badge, and sets off for pastures new.
However, we think they need to be given more attention, interviewing those that are leaving is as important as interviewing those that wish to join. In a fiercely competitive jobs market hiring is hard – so reducing attrition has to be as much part of your resourcing strategy as employer branding and talent attraction.
To reduce attrition, you first need to understand why people are leaving. Which leads nicely to our top 3 tips to get the most out of your exit interviews…
- Build trust in the process – put yourselves in the shoes of a leaver. They probably want their notice period over as painlessly as possible. Unless they have a huge axe to grind, they’ll probably want to avoid uncomfortable discussions. Plus, they’ll probably be worried about that all-important reference. Why “rock the boat” and put that at risk? That often means when asked “why are you leaving” they’ll come up with answers that are easy for them to say – and easy for the interviewer to hear. Things like “more money” or “closer to home”. The risk being you never get to the truth. Great exit interview processes mean the leaver knows they are safe to share the real reasons they are going. And that there’s a firewall between that process and referencing.
- Have them conducted by an independent party – who does the interview makes a big difference to the outcome. Making it possible for answers to be as truthful as possible. You won’t get ‘it’s because my boss is horrible’ or ‘my colleagues don’t pull their weight and I am not propping them up any longer’ unless the leaver thinks that information will be used appropriately. There’s an old saying that “people join organisations and leave managers”. And there’s more than a grain of truth in it. So having a line manager conduct exit interviews of their own leavers is never a good idea. The question always has to be “who is most likely to get to the truth?” That could be HR, a line manager from elsewhere in the business, or even a third party.
- Get the right balance of structure and enquiry – to be able to report on your findings there does need to be structure to your process. However, you also need to give your exit interviewers the freedom to “follow the white rabbit” – sticking to a script may mean missing clues and not probing deep enough in the right areas. That’s why questionnaires alone aren’t sufficient – it takes a skilled interviewer to get to the right. That prompts another question of course – how much do you invest in exit interview training? Do you take it as seriously as recruitment interview training?
Are you getting the full story from your current exit process? We’ve been working with a number of clients looking to improve and/or outsource their exit interview process. We are happy to share what we’ve learned and offer some ideas. Just drop a note to email@example.com or give us a call on 0207 224 3307.