The primary goal of human capital management is to recruit and retain talented employees. When a valued employee leaves, it can disrupt important projects and leave critical gaps in company succession plans.Ideally, well-designed HR programs ensure the right combination of compensation, career development, and advancement opportunities to retain talented employees and keep them engaged. Every organization should develop an effective exit interview process in order to discover why departing employees leave the company and use that information to reduce unwanted turnover.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a company-led outreach with a departing employee to gather important information about why they have chosen to leave the company and what could be done better in the future to reduce turnover. This information can be tracked over time to gain powerful insights into areas your organization should improve to foster better retention rates.

Step by step: How to conduct an exit interview

To develop your employee exit interview program, create an effective process and then apply it with consistency over time. Here are five steps to help you conduct an exit interview:

1. Promptly schedule a one-on-one in-person meeting.

Companies conduct exit interviews in different ways, from surveys to web meetings to phone calls and in-person interviews. The best way to gather meaningful information is a face-to-face interview. If you do use a survey, write open-ended questions to obtain more feedback. Move quickly to schedule an exit interview, so the employee still has a fresh memory.

2. Keep it confidential.

Make it clear exactly how you will analyze and share the information and reinforce the confidentiality of the interview itself. People within an industry often work with the same professionals again, so confidentiality is very important to encourage forthright feedback.

3. Choose the right interviewer.

Harvard Business Review’s study of exit interview practices found that 70.9% of companies delegated the interviews to the HR department and about 19% tasked the interview to an employee’s direct supervisor. Only about 9% had a higher level supervisor conduct the interview, however, HBR observed that the most honest feedback was received by the second-line manager (direct supervisor’s manager) as the interviewer. The article also noted that “an external consultant typically has several advantages over an internal interviewer, including expertise in exit interviewing and a complete lack of bias.”

4. Listen and remain calm and respectful.

The point of an exit interview is to help the company improve. Don’t get defensive or reactive if the employee points out negative aspects of the job, expresses anger or sadness, or phrases things in a blunt way. Listen respectfully, remain objective and present a calm, open demeanor.

5. Ask good questions.

Prepare a list of open-ended questions that cover a range of topics and gathers information that can be used to drive meaningful improvements. Take this opportunity to get unvarnished observations about management styles, culture and engagement, and the company’s overall competitiveness with questions including:

  • What drove the employee’s decision to leave the company?

  • How could the company culture be better?

  • Was the work interesting? How did they feel about their assignments and projects?

  • Did the employee experience problems with stress or expectations on the job?

  • How was the hiring and onboarding process–did they receive the right training?

  • Were there problems between the employee and the manager? Or with co-workers? Did the employee feel valued on the job?

  • What was the employee’s experience at the company in terms of career development, skills training and opportunities for advancement?

  • Did compensations and benefits meet expectations? What do they anticipate will be better at the new company?

  • How could the company improve technology, processes, or policies to better succeed?

6. Turn information into action.There’s more to exit interviews than checking the box on your offboarding to-do list. According to Harvard Business Review, positive organizational change is the most important indicator of whether your exit interview program is working well. Among companies that conducted exit interviews, only one-third could provide an example of any change they had made in response to exit interview revelations. Businesses must focus their attention on turning exit interview insights into actions in order to enjoy a return on their investment in the process.

Develop an effective exit interview process

There are many reasons that employees leave a job. It’s important to learn whether your organization is losing top talent due to compensation, career development, or managerial issues that can be addressed for better talent management. Asure Software consultants can help organizations design an effective exit interview process and conduct unbiased third-party interviews to gather and analyze information revealed by departing employees.

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