What is an Employee Exit Interview Survey?
Employee exit interviews are important to HR management for monitoring employee retention and engagement. It’s important to understand why an employee leaves and what you can do to avoid regrettable employee losses. Regardless of why an employee leaves, employee exit interviews provide a wealth of information to employers. Exit interviews can change the climate of an organization by helping management know what they do better to retain talent, prevent bad hires and improve management practices generally.
Thinking About Employee Exits
It’s helpful to classify every exit into one of four categories, as the information gathered from each situation will inform different parts of the organization. Depending on the employee exit classification, the information from the exit interview will provide different, but valuable information.
- Win-win: The exit is good for the company, and good for the employee. Example: An underperforming employee leaves to attend graduate school.
- Lose-lose: The exit is bad for the company, and bad for the employee. Example: A great employee leaves because of family complications.
- Lose-win: The exit is bad for the company, but good for the employee. Example: A great employee leaves because of a great new job opportunity elsewhere.
- Win-lose: The exit is good for the company, but bad for the employee. Example: An unethical employee is fired.
Preventing Regrettable Losses
Regrettable losses result from employee job dissatisfaction, employees not feeling valued, poor management practices, the lack of advancement opportunity and occasionally harassment by or conflict with a co-worker or manager. Exit interviews can help employers know what changes they need to make so they can avoid losing good people in the future. Of course, it’s always better to get this information before losing a great employee through regular reviews and open dialogue. At the very least, exit interviews provide important metrics to help employers make changes that reflect employee opinions and create value recognition programs where needed. They also help employers avoid litigation caused by illegal activities or disgruntled employees.
General Measures of Employee Exit Interview Surveys
Employee exit interviews should focus on retention by identifying why the employee is leaving and if the company’s level of performance or the employees’ unfulfilled expectations are at issue. Exit interview surveys often include general measures such as:
- Job responsibilities and performance
- Employee job orientation and training
- Mentoring programs
- Working conditions
- Opportunities for skill development career advancement
- Training and development programs
- Supervision and management
- Work satisfaction
- Workload distribution and schedule flexibility
- Organizational culture
- Organizational and work group communication
Employment environments with low levels of employee retention reflect low levels of employee engagement and can incur great costs to the organization. Not only is it expensive to hire and train new employees, but poor employment environments negatively impact on productivity and morale. Effective employee exit interviews are an opportunity to diagnose and improve employee engagement within the company.
Results of Employee Exit Interview Surveys
Organizations can use the results of employee exit interview surveys in a variety of ways to:
- Improve employee retention and reducing turnover
- Increase company objectivity by having employee exit interviews handled by a fair and non-partisan third-party
- Benchmark against industry and company norms for the exit interview survey items
- Compare exit interview scores against the overall employee engagement surveys
- Track trends in employee exit interview satisfaction to measure improvements made
How to Increase Response Rates
Generally, only about one-third of employees leaving an organization complete an exit interview. Given the importance of the information, it’s in every organization’s best interest to improve response rates. The most basic suggestion is to make sure that exit interviews are a priority and to incent managers and exiting employees to complete them. There are also a few rules of thumb to increase response rates:
- Do them online. Online exit interviews respondents tend to be more candid and willing to share specific experiences.
- Keep employee exit interview questions short and simple by focusing on evaluating different job components and identifying needed changes.
- Weigh carefully the inclusion of any questions about feelings and emotions as this is particularly difficult, especially if the employee has been terminated from the job.
- Since respondents’ comments and evaluations are important and may be sensitive, ensure that respondents feel safe giving honest feedback without fear of retribution or damaged relationships. Tell exiting employees that the HR director will evaluate their comments directly, and that comments will not be directly shared with their former supervisor or co-workers.
- If respondents make suggestions, send a note thanking them for their honesty and report on implementations that are based on their recommendations.
- Audit your exit interview process to see where you can make improvements.