An exit interview is a valuable tool that can identify ways a company could achieve a higher level of productivity, profitability, and retain top talent.
When an employee elects to move on, it may not be related to dissatisfaction. People change jobs for many reasons, often personal rather than financial, or related to job dissatisfaction. However, no matter the cause behind the separation, a well-conducted exit interview can bring to light weak points in your organization.
Whatever your industry, exit interviews are beneficial. An employee who is moving on is often candid and open, as the pressure is off. This is a time when they may finally feel free to drop their guard and speak without repercussions. During an exit interview, employees can take broader and deeper views of their tenure and define both the positives and negatives of a company culture.
However, exit interview can be challenging for work environments where time and volume are an issue. Hourly and seasonal work environments, for example, pose difficult challenges when it comes to exit interviews. Yet, having an established exit interview process is important for a business.
Are Exit Interviews Legally Binding?
Exit interviews are not mandatory or legally binding, and a refusal to answer exit interview questions should not slow the process for an employee who is choosing to leave.
What are the Exit Interview Goals?
By performing the assigned duties of their job, each employee has a function that should enhance the productivity and profitability of the company. It is important to give an employee who is leaving the ability to debrief and discuss their experience. You may get a deep insight into the inner workings of a department, revealing issues that require organizational changes.
While interview results may reveal certain issues that result in the need to act immediately, typically, for best results, results are aggregated from several interviews so as to avoid acting on a single report that may be inaccurate. The goals of any exit interview include:
- Discover the positive aspects of the company that can be used for retention
- Discover non-optimal conditions, policies or work culture behavior
- Bring to light patterns of misbehavior
- Reveal criminal activity within the organization
- Bring to light ways to entice top talent to stay in the future
- Defuse any potential legal situations
- Gather suggestions that could improve overall company operations
Challenges Faced When Conducting Exit Interviews
One of the biggest challenges faced when conducting exit interviews is conducting them in a timely manner.
This is even more challenging in work environments that are mostly composed of seasonal, hourly, or distributed workforces. In these types of workforces, exit interviews are not standard, but they very much should be. Everyone has something to say and everyone’s opinion should be valued, especially in these workforces where there is a constant need for new employees.
Exit interviews may not be a standard procedure in these types of workforces due to high-turnover environments or multiple work locations. For example, seasonal workers may all end work for the season on the same day. Conducting exit interviews is time-demanding and doing so with dozens if not hundreds of employees is nearly impossible. Or consider a distributed workforce – with workers in multiple locations there may be no home base to properly conduct these exit interviews.
How to Approach Exit Interviews with an Hourly, Seasonal, or Distributed Workforce
While challenging, approaching an exit interview with an hourly, seasonal, or distributed workforce is feasible.
If an in-person exit interview isn’t possible, for example, there are other ways to conduct an exit interview. The most common way would be a phone interview. Even though it’s not in-person, an exit interview over the phone is still effective.
If phone interviews aren’t possible consider questionnaires. Questionnaires still allow employees’ voices to be heard but in an efficient manner. So, if there are 20 employees leaving in one day, you’ll rest assured that every opinion on their experience with your company is accounted for.
The Most Important Part: The Interviewer
The skill of the interviewer is crucial to the success of the exit interview. From salaried workers to seasonal employees, no matter your workforce structure, an effective exit interview all ties back to the interviewer.
Here are some skills and tips that will help to become a great exit interviewer:
- Make sure the employee is at ease and establish a friendly, trusting, and safe environment. The interview usually occurs in the work environment where employees may feel somewhat guarded about revealing personal feelings for other employees and the company itself. To make the employee comfortable, try to establish a safe space to help reveal candid feelings and opinions. During the interview, you may be probing for answers that require the employee to take a deeper look into their time with the company, which will be unproductive if the leaving employee feels worried or nervous in the interview.
- Remember to observe the person in front of you without preconceived notions or bias. Listen, not only to what the employee says, but how they say it. It is not uncommon for people to answer a question with the first thing to comes to their mind, potentially failing to answer the interview question, so the ability to rephrase your question is important. Unless you are really listening, you won’t be able to identify issues worth expanding upon in the interview.
- You need to be able to evaluate a person quickly: Is this employee an unproductive, disgruntled troublemaker? Some employees choose to leave as they are unhappy with management or other members of the team. Is the employee a person who appears to see only the negative? Are they using the interview process to complain and to settle old scores? Do they have anything positive to say? On the other hand, did this person become unhappy at a job for legitimate reasons? Was the employee poorly managed?
- Be sure to not make Ask, listen, observe, clarify, and make notes. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves. Tune in on the person in front of you and gather as much information as you can.
Exit Interview Questions
Generally, people like to be asked for their opinions and will be willing to reveal their thoughts and feelings about their work experience at your company, especially in hourly and seasonal workforces where employees may find it difficult to be heard. In an exit interview, start with broad questions and narrow them down as the employee settles into the interview.
It is imperative to be clear from the start that all issues discussed during the exit interview are confidential. If any issue is discovered that must be reported to management, it will either be as part of an aggregate compilation or in an anonymous report.
One caveat is that most people don’t have the answers at the top of their mind. The questions themselves, how they are asked, and the order in which they are asked are all important to a successful exit interview.. Exiting employees may even decide to stay on, based on the outcome of a well-conducted interview.
Key Questions for an Exit Interview
A correctly-presented set of questions produce vital information. Each question should be followed down and clarified before to moving to the next question.
- Why are you leaving?
- What situation caused you to consider looking for another job initially?
- What would have to change here for you to consider staying? [even if you don’t want to retain this employee, you can get vital data from this question]
- How do you feel about management in general?
- Do they adequately recognize employee contributions?
- Do you feel your salary was a fair exchange for the work you have performed here?
- Were there any company policies that were hard to understand, didn’t apply, or worked against your productivity?
- Did you have everything you needed to perform your duties?
- Did you get enough training for your job? If not, what should have been included?
- Understanding your answers are confidential, was there anyone here you feel was disruptive or unproductive?
- What are we best at?
- What could we improve?
- Is there anything about the company or the employees that we should know about?
- Anything else to add?
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