The Art of The Exit Interview – 4 Things You Need To Know

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The Art of The Exit Interview – 4 Things You Need To Know

The Series So Far

In my last post I showed you some ways to help with nurturing your team and keeping them motivated too.  To close the post out I mentioned that some times you can do everything right as an employer and members of your team will still opt to pursue a new opportunity.  In today’s post, I’m going to give you tips and tricks that help get you through those sticky situations!

The Dilemma

When a member of your team leaves (especially when they’re in a critical role) it’s incredibly important to have a solid exit interview process in place.  While there are plenty of exit interview templates available on the Web, I have found that there are 4 pieces of the puzzle that are easy to overlook:

  1. Are You Getting Candid Answers in Your Exit Interviews?
  2. Are You Focused on Discovering Patterns?
  3. Does Your Organization Make Strategic Adjustments Based on Exit Interview Feedback?
  4. How Does the Exit Interview Fit Into Your Succession Planning process?

So let’s jump right in and look at each piece.

Candid Answers

When an employee is leaving a position, there are two sides of the spectrum on how they will handle the exit interview.  On one side , you’re going to have a person who is hesitant to disclose the full truth.  Most likely, they’re afraid to burn bridges or get a bad reference and will hold their punches as a result.  On the other side you’ll have someone who is strikingly honest about the good, bad, and the ugly.

If you’re doing things right before someone leaves, then you give yourself a better chance of getting honest feedback.  If your company has dropped the HR ball at some point, be aware that exit interview feedback will be impacted until you get things buttoned up.  If you’re going to stand any chance of solving an HR related problem, you’ve got to know it exists so here are a few things that can help you get candid feedback during an exit interview:

  • Let your exiting team member know you have no desire to “shoot the messenger”.  Make it clear that you know there’s always a way to get better and that your company wants to fix the things that need fixing.  This message only works if you mean it so it’s important to live and breathe transparency at your organization,
  • Wait a few weeks after an employee leaves before you conduct the exit interview.  If emotions are running hot, it’s going to impact the responses you get and how you interpret the answers.  By waiting a short interval, everyone involved has a chance to gain some perspective and react more calmly.
  • Consider using a neutral 3rd party for the exit interview.  If an employee has an issue with their supervisor or if they’re afraid of a bad reference from HR, it could impact their answers.  Using a 3rd party could help you avoid those types of entanglements.

Pro Tip: You shouldn’t wait until you’re thirsty to start digging a well.  Check in with your employees early and often to avoid the biggest HR roadblocks down the road.

Look For The Catalyst

Let’s face it, whenever someone leaves they are going to say it’s because of better pay, more attractive benefits, or some other tangible perk.  However, that’s never the whole story.  Those perks may be why they chose that job, but it’s NOT telling you why they started looking for something new.  Focus your questions on discovering  what their catalyst was, and you’ve got a chance for a successful exit interview.

By identifying the catalyst moment, you can also see if there’s a pattern emerging.  Is there a culture problem?  Is a particular manager or corporate policy a root cause?  Answering that question means you’ve got a real chance to eliminate something as a reason that people might leave in the future.

Making The Right Adjustments

Does any company benefit from throwing away useful customer demographic data?  Of course not!  Recognize that your exit interview feedback is real time data from your internal customers and treasure it accordingly.

If you’re just going through the motions with your exit interviews, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Never file your exit interview information until you have first shared it with your C levels.  Give them a chance to review the data, along with your suggestions and insights.  If it’s something that can’t be changed, so be it, but if an adjustment can be made that will ultimately limit turnover – you owe it to your bottom line to tackle it.

Succession Planning

Once your exit interview is done, you’ve got to work through any actionable bits and then start your search for a replacement.  Are you filling the newly opened position with someone that’s already on your team?  Do you have a succession plan in place for them?  Are you bringing in someone from outside?  That leads to on-boarding and the typical 90 day probation period so the process needs to look a little different there.

As a rule of thumb, set up a recurring calendar event to review your process.  Also, if you’re working with a recruiter to fill the new position, be sure that they understand your most current process.  That way they can share it with their candidates!

Up Next

For the next phase of this series on corporate culture we’re going to start gathering real world feedback from our readers.  As a part of that effort we’ll be creating and distributing a survey so if you’d be interested in participating, just click below!

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By | 2018-06-14T19:27:18+00:00 October 2nd, 2015|Blog|0 Comments