Getting Feedback: Conducting Exit Interviews

by Greg DePersio

2 min read

Running a successful business requires great employees. Recruiting and retaining great employees requires a workplace where people are happy to come to work. Otherwise, they’ll look for somewhere else to hang their hat and will jump ship when an opportunity presents itself. The challenge is figuring out how to improve your company culture to attract the best workers. You could ask current employees, but they might not be candid about things they’re unhappy with for fear of upsetting co-workers or managers. A better source of information, potentially, comes from departing employees. They’ve already made up their minds to take their talents elsewhere, so they have little reason to hold back on an honest assessment of their tenure. The exit interview process can be a valuable tool for optimizing your company’s work environment.

How the Process Works

An exit interview is held with a departing employee to discuss the employee’s experiences while working for your organization. It can provide your business with valuable insight. You want to determine what your company is doing wrong and what it’s doing right with regard to its workplace culture. By asking the right questions and listening to the feedback that your departing employees have to give, you can identify common threads among workers who ultimately decided they’d be happier elsewhere. Exit interviews should be entirely optional for departing employees. Information obtained under duress is much less valuable than what you can glean from employees who willingly sit down to talk. Encourage openness and candor by ensuring participants that nothing they say will be held against them when future employers call for references.

What Information to Gather

Rather than being an informal chat, exit interviews should focus on specific information. The details you should learn from the employee include what they liked about their job, what they didn’t like, if they felt they were adequately equipped to perform their job properly, and, most important, why they decided to leave. Ask these questions in a neutral and unbiased manner. Let them know you don’t expect them to come up with nice things to say to counterbalance the bad. If they have nothing positive to say about working for you, it’s still valuable employee feedback, and you shouldn’t hold it against the employee for being honest.

Why to Gather This Information

Gathering information from departing employees helps you retain good workers moving forward if you use the information you obtain to improve relationships with employees. For example, say that you hear from several who are exiting that they enjoyed their jobs and thought the pay was fair, but they didn’t feel that their ideas and contributions were valued. From there, you could implement a new open-door policy saying that all employees, regardless of their positions, are encouraged to share their ideas for improving the company. Losing good employees is never enjoyable. By conducting exit interviews, you can gain information that helps you keep your best employees in the future.

References & Resources

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