Exit Interview: Meaning and Importance02/06/2020
An exit interview is a survey conducted with an individual who is separating from an organization or relationship. Most commonly, this occurs between an employee and an organization, a student and an educational institution, or a member and an association. An organization can use the information gained from an exit interview to assess what should be improved, changed, or remain intact. More so, an organization can use the results from exit interviews to reduce employee, student, or member turnover and increase productivity and engagement, thus reducing the high costs associated with turnover. Some examples of the value of conducting exit interviews include shortening the recruiting and hiring process, reducing absenteeism, improving innovation, sustaining performance, and reducing possible litigation if issues mentioned in the exit interview are addressed. It is important for each organization to customize its own exit interview in order to maintain the highest levels of survey validity and reliability.
The exit interview fits into the separation stage of the employee life cycle (ELC). This stage, the last one of the ELC, spans from the moment an employee becomes disengaged until his or her departure from the organization. This is the key time that an exit interview should be administered because the employee’s feelings regarding his or her departure are fresh in mind. An off-boarding process allows both the employer and employee to properly close the existing relationship so that company materials are collected, administrative forms are completed, knowledge base and projects are transferred or documented, feedback and insights are gathered through exit interviews, and any loose ends are resolved.
Exit interviews in business are focused on employees that are leaving a company or when employees have completed a significant project. The purpose of this exit interview is to gain feedback from employees in order to improve aspects of the organization, better retain employees, and reduce turnover. During this interview employees will be asked why they are leaving, what specifically influenced their decision to leave, whether or not they are going to another company and what that company they are going to offers that their current company does not. Businesses can use this information to better align their HR strategy with what employees look for in an organization and enact programs and practices that will influence top talent to stay at the organization.
In the past, exit interview data was being collected by the organization but not much was being done in terms of interpreting the data and making it actionable. Today there are metrics, analytics, benchmarks, and best practices that help organizations make sense of and use the data towards proactive organizational retention programs. Recently an array of exit interview software has been developed and popularized. However this method of conducting Exit Interviews has some significant flaws, most notably, that it identifies the wrong drivers of staff turnover.
Exit interviews in education are conducted with students who have graduated from an educational institution. These interviews are meant to gather information about students’ experience while attending that institution, what they benefited from, what was missing, and what could be improved to enhance the experience of the next generation of students who attend that institution. This type of interview can also point to areas in which the institution should invest more or less resources to enhance a student’s learning and development experience.
Methods for conducting exit interviews
There are various methods of conducting exit interviews, each with their benefits and disadvantages.
Face to Face interviews
Historically, this has been the primary method for conducting Exit Interviews (79% of organizations), although this is changing rapidly. These face to face meetings are usually conducted internally by a human resources professional or manager, or in rare cases, by an external consultant.
Benefits of Face to Face Interview
The main benefit of this method is that completion rates tend to be high, as long as the interview is conducted by a relevant and suitably skilled professional (external consultant, HR professional or indirect manager). In addition, departing employees have a personal experience which may cause them to speak more positively about the company (affecting their ’employer brand’) after they leave. Also, if Interviewers are well trained, the content can be well structured and checked in real time to ensure accuracy of data, especially concerning reasons for leaving. This method also allows high quality data to be collected from people whose literacy skills are not good.
Disadvantage of Face to Face Interview
The disadvantages of this method are that the feedback is rarely captured in a way that allows reporting on trends with more than a third of organizations using this method having no reporting tool attached to their exit data. If conducted by an external consultant, this method can be expensive. It’s also sometimes the case that the human resources professional who might conduct the interview, could be part of the employee’s reason for leaving (e.g. I was overlooked in the pay review while on parental leave and my HR person wouldn’t return my calls). This would mean that the employee is unlikely to be honest if that HR professional was conducting the exit interview. Unfortunately very few organizations (20%) provide any training on exit interviewing so the quality is often highly variable. In addition, this method is the most expensive if outsourced.
Exit Interviews conducted by telephone are becoming more common (41% of organizations) and are the most effective method of Exit Interviews.
Benefits of Telephone Interview
Feedback is easy to capture and code in a form that allows easy reporting and analysis. Because the Interviewer’s visual attention does not need to be dedicated to the person in front of them, as it does in a face to face interview, they are able to capture and code feedback in real time. Completion rates are the highest of all methods, possibly due to there being no need for the Interviewer and Interviewee to be in the same physical place, but also because the interview can be conducted even after the person has left (see Timing of Exit Interviews). If Interviewers are well trained, the content can be well structured and checked in real time to ensure accuracy of data, especially concerning reasons for leaving. And as with face to face interviews, the experience for the Interviewee can be very personal. This method is easy to outsource, and is less expensive than face to face interviews. It also allows for high quality data to be collected from people whose literacy skills are not good.
Disadvantages of Telephone interview
This method is that it is more expensive than online and paper surveys. Some Human Resources professionals enjoy conducting the interviews, so outsourcing the interviews removes this task.
Percent of exit interviews completed according to who conducted the interview.
Exit interviews taken in paper form allows interviews to be conducted with those who do not have Internet access, and allows for the option of anonymity. However, it takes longer to receive feedback, and respondents who are not literate would find it difficult to use this medium. Information must also be entered into a tracking system manually for this medium. As at 2010, 46% of organizations still conducted Exit Interviews using this method.
As at 2010, 38% of organizations used this method for Exit Interviews.
Benefits of Online Survey
This is the least costly method of conducting Exit Interviews, with several free survey software tools available on the market. It also collects data in a way that is easy to report and analyse.
Disadvantages of Online Survey
There are two significant problems with using online surveys for Exit Interviews. The most critical problem is that they identify the wrong drivers of staff turnover Because online surveys do not allow for testing of root cause, the reasons for leaving are not differentiated from issues that caused dissatisfaction but not resignation. In addition there is no ability to ensure that the commentary for each reason for leaving, is consistent with the reason for leaving option they have chosen from a list. The second problem with using online surveys for Exit Interviews is the relatively low completion rate at 34%. This is around half the average completion rate of interviews that are outsourced to external consultants (66%) and around a third of best practice for outsourcing phone interviews (95%).
Interactive voice response surveys
IVRs are reliable methods of taking exit interviews because they are accessible by phone, a very widespread and reliable technology. However, IVRs have fallen out of favor due to the cost effectiveness of web based options that yield data at similar or higher quality. In comparison to other options, it is difficult to get rich data from an IVR, or to adjust and change it, since any changes require new voice recordings to be made.
Importance of Exit Interview
- Departing employees are generally more forthcoming than those still in their jobs
- You will learn the reason for an employee’s departure (it may be different than you think!)
- The exit interview allows the employee to provide constructive feedback and leave on a positive note.
- That last touchpoint provides you with an opportunity to review continuing obligations with the employee (e.g., non-competes, intellectual property agreements, etc.)
- It provides the opportunity to ask if there are any open issues of which you need to be aware. This can help reduce risk and identify matters that may require immediate attention.
- You will get a candid assessment of your organization’s environment and culture.
- Insight into recruiting, on-boarding, and training needs may be revealed.
- The feedback will help you to identify areas that can help improve staff retention.
- Improvement opportunities in management development and succession planning can be detected.
- It’s cost-effective and easy to facilitate with HR Acuity Exit Interviews.
No matter the size of your company, exit interviews provide an opportunity for an employee to discuss the workplace environment, concerns about misconduct, or issues within management.