When employees are laid off, fired or otherwise abruptly leave — and in some instances, even when employees give notice — exit interviews are a step that’s often skipped.
Companies that fail to ask employees why they’re leaving, or what they liked and disliked about their job, are missing out on a major opportunity. The information gleaned in exit interviews can help organizations enact changes to improve ongoing initiatives, the workplace environment and overall employee sentiment.
HR departments most frequently are responsible for the employee exit interview process, according to findings from a survey involving companies headquartered in 35 countries that was published in the Harvard Business Review.
If you company is one of the 70.9 percent that have asked the HR department to handle its exit interviews — or your company hasn’t consistently conducted them — the following tips can help you more effectively capture departing employees’ take on what is and isn’t working:
Employees will likely be more candid if they know management and leadership won’t be told the person contributed specific comments.
If company leadership has a strong opposition to anonymous responses, consider having a second- or third-line manager conduct the interview. The Harvard Business Review found those managers tend to receive more honest comments, since they aren’t directly involved with the departing employee. Because the managers are in a position to institute changes, they also can often act on the input quickly.
Regularly create reports or review information you’ve compiled fro
m employee exit interviews, and a clearer picture may begin to emerge. Interviews that the Health Care & Professions Council, an independent U.K. regulator, conducted, for example, revealed job opportunity was the most frequently cited reason why employees left the organization. Salary, according to a 2015 HCPC report, was also a contributing factor.
The information helped the organization determine it would monitor its pay in comparison to national averages and invest in employee learning and development opportunities to maintain a low staff turnover rate.
Act on the findings
Every organization isn’t as proactive as HCPC; data on how exit interview results are used varies. While a recent survey from OfficeTeam found more than six in 10 human resources managers say their company commonly acts on exit interview input, the research published in the Harvard Business Review found fewer than a third of executives could cite an example of a specific action that had been taken due to an exit interview.
Companies that do utilize the information, however, have found it can be applied in several ways. Twenty-nine percent update job descriptions based on employee exit interview input; another 24 percent makes changes to address comments about management, and 22 percent formulate work environment adjustments, according to OfficeTeam.
Keep in touch with former employees
Don’t let departing employees just walk out the door. Setting up an employee alumni network will allow you to remain in contact with workers who have left the organization — who could potentially provide hiring referrals or become candidates for open positions at the company in the future.
Employee exit interviews can offer valuable insight into the employee experience — but you don’t have to wait for workers to leave to find out how your staff feels.
Distributing an employee survey can help measure employees’ current outlook, and improving your employee value proposition is a good way to proactively increase satisfaction levels and prevent staff turnover before it becomes an issue.
You may also want to re-examine your employee engagement efforts. Having a strong, ongoing program in place can help ensure all workers feel like a valued, integral part of the team — and plan to stay on board.