A natural part of owning a business is having employees come and go. And as uncomfortable as they may be, conducting exit interviews are vital for gaining insight into the work environment you've created and how your employees really feel about working for you.
No matter the terms on which your employee is leaving, it's important to give them the time and space to offer their perspective—on both good things and maybe the not so good stuff.
A Harvard Business Review study surveyed 188 executives and interviewed 32 senior leaders representing 210 organizations in 33 industries, headquartered in more than 35 countries, to gain some insight into exit interviews and their outcomes. They found three-quarters of companies conducted some type of exit interview for at least some departing employees, though the way in which these companies handled the process differed: 70.9% had their HR departments handle the process; 19% had departing employees' direct supervisors do it; 8.9% delegated the job to the direct supervisor's manager; and 1% turned to external consultants.
HBR says your success should be measured by the positive change an exit interview generates after the fact. Unfortunately, the study also found most organizations don't actually end up doing anything with the data collected. What's the point, right? HBR offers these six areas of focus for companies looking to develop a strategic exit interview program:
1. Uncover issues relating to HR.
2. Understand employees' perceptions of the work itself.
3. Gain insight into managers' leadership styles and effectiveness.
4. Learn about HR benchmarks (salary, benefits) at competing organizations.
5. Foster innovation by soliciting ideas for improving the organization.
6. Create lifelong advocates for the organization.
If you've never conducted an exit interview before or want to improve your current process, Indeed offers some additional tips:
1. Start by selecting an interviewer. As noted earlier, this is most often a member of your HR team, but could also be done by an external source, if preferred.
2. Prepare in advance. Ensure you've got a private space set up for the interview and do your due diligence in understanding your employees' responsibilities and the context of their time spent with the company. Remember: everyone is different.
3. Ask the employee to complete a written survey. Offering something in writing in advance will provide the employee more time to think about their responses and could possibly remind them of other points they'd like to bring up during the in-person meeting.
4. Schedule the interview at the right time. A two weeks' notice is standard, but could vary depending on the circumstances of the individual employee's departure. Indeed suggests conducting the interview while they still have a week left at their job, but does note that conducting the interview after an employee finishes their two weeks could possibly offer a more candid conversation.
5. Listen closely. This is a pretty obvious tip, but it's important to really take it to heart. Ensure the questions you've prepared in advance open the door for your employee to provide the feedback you're really going to want—and then do something that feedback.
6. Ask if you can share their responses with management. Of course, you should first communicate with the employee that their feedback is confidential. But be sure to get permission to share any relevant feedback with those still on the team that could be helpful for future improvement.
There's certainly an art to conducting a "successful" exit interview, but the productive follow up that comes after is where the opportunity to grow and improve your business truly awaits.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.