When an employee provides you with their resignation notice, it’s a good idea to arrange an exit interview. Exit interviews provide an opportunity to gather information that can help you make improvements within your organization. When you do conduct exit interviews, ensure that you stress to interviewees that the purpose is to find ways to make things better for employees. In other words, the information will be used in a positive manner and the feedback that they provide is truly important. Some suggestions for exit interviews are as follows:
- Have a set of structured questions, but be willing and prepared to go off-script.
- Where possible, have the interview in-person instead of emailing a set of questions to the individual.
- Ensure that the exit interview takes place in private and allow the appropriate time for the interview to ensure that it is not rushed.
- Share exit interview findings as appropriate. Ideally, results will be shared in aggregate format. However, if you have a small organization where resignations are infrequent, this may not be possible.
- Ask the interviewee who they are comfortable with their results being shared with. For example, if they have feedback for their direct supervisor that may not be flattering, they may not want this information shared with him or her.
- Take action – where possible – with the information that you’ve received. Otherwise, there isn’t much sense in conducting exit interviews.
- Be consistent with your interviews. That is, don’t “cherry pick” who you interview: everyone can provide valuable information. Don’t assume that a staff member will only have negative things to say.
- It likely goes without saying, but don’t interview anyone who has been terminated with cause. The interview likely wouldn’t go well!
Now, some individuals will give more constructive feedback than others will. And that’s okay. Take what you can from these interviews. Over time, you will likely see themes emerge that you can use to make improvements at your organization. For instance, you may find out from exiting employees that they feel communication from senior management to staff is lacking. Dig into this and sort out a way that communication can be improved. Of course, you may not be able to act on all information, nor would it make sense to do so. For example, maybe one of your exiting staff members identifies that the break room should be stocked with a certain type of beverage rather than another. Is this an issue? Maybe, but probably not! As well, the exit interview process needs to be voluntary. If someone is not willing to give an exit interview, explore why they are hesitant to engage in this process. It may just be a misunderstanding on their part. If they are still not wanting to participate, don’t push the subject. If participation is forced, you likely won’t receive much in the way of valuable information.
As important as exit interviews are, our next blog will focus on stay interviews. The purpose of stay interviews are also to gather feedback, but occur when individuals are still working for your organization.