As hard as it is sometimes, the fact is that not all relationships last. People break up, friends drift away and partnerships evolve. Likewise, with employees, there will come a time when they will leave. It may be difficult to accept the fact that a valuable employee is leaving, but this also provides a window of opportunity to know what their experience working in your company has been like, and learn from it. This is where an exit interview comes in to play.
As with anyone who parts ways, it is good to have closure. An exit interview is the last chance for both you and your employee to have a conversation about their working experience there. A time for them to give a review, and for you to receive valuable feedback. If you are dreading the day and are not sure how to go about it, fret not, here are some key tips on how to handle an exit interview smoothly.
How To Conduct An Exit Interview
Once you have accepted the resignation of an employee, you will need to look into planning and scheduling the exit interview. The best time to schedule it is in the employee’s very final days with the company, ideally within the last two days.
While you do have the option of conducting a written exit survey; in which the employee will have more time to think calmly about his or her answers; having a face-to-face meeting is a nice final gesture and makes the process more personal as opposed to dry and procedural.
Some companies give written exit surveys beforehand and follow up with the face-to-face interview to give those involved time to gather their thoughts, though the drawback of this approach is that the interview may become more scripted.
You will need to appoint the appropriate people to conduct the exit interview. Normally, if the company has an HR department, HR staff would conduct the interview. Otherwise, the supervisor or management team may conduct the exit interview.
Opening The Meeting
Always start by explaining the purpose of the exit interview, and ask them for permission to share some of the answers with management, paraphrase if you may. You want everyone involved to be comfortable to speak openly yet be civil. Set the vibe and start the interview with a more friendly discussion before easing into the more probing questions.
Exit Interview Questions
Questions may vary from company to company, but they all follow similar themes. Though you shouldn’t be tied to a strict ‘script’, do plan the questions you will ask. Having key questions tied to certain elements will help you in the long run in identifying and comparing common answers. This will provide valuable information on what your company is doing right and what may need to be improved.
Depending on the reasons why they are leaving, the employee may start venting. Just let them speak freely. It is good for them to provide their opinion, but don’t fuel negativity. Take no sides and don’t share your opinion, and especially avoid feeding office gossip. If the employee brings up any hostility, harassment, or discrimination issues during the exit interview, take note and promptly follow your standard HR investigation procedures.
Here are some sample questions you may use to guide your process. Try to ask questions revolving around each topic, as these may be insightful information for the management of your company.
1. About Leaving
Companies invest time and effort into retention strategies, and thus it is important to understand the various underlying reasons as to why an employee may leave. You would want to know if there are recurring problems that cause employees to leave.
If the employee has already accepted a job offer, the new job may have something that is lacking in their current job. While they may be reluctant to share information on their new job, that information is noteworthy and may be key to retaining a future employee. Just don’t press them on if they refuse to share.
- Can you talk a bit about why you are leaving?
- Was a single event responsible for your decision to leave?
- Have you shared your concerns with anyone in the company before to deciding to leave?
- Were your concerns acknowledged or were they ignored?
- What prompted you to start looking for another job?
- What was the biggest factor that led you to accept this new job?
2. Environment and Culture
Sometimes the job is good and the pay is great, and yet good employees still leave. Environment and culture also play an important role in an employee’s desire to stay.
Here you will know whether the office environment is healthy or toxic. Do colleagues thrive on office gossip, which could be detrimental to office relationships? Do your employees feel motivated to come to work every day? What do they love about the company? And conversely, what did they find unappealing?
- What is the company doing right or awesomely at? What is the company doing just OK at? What is the company doing poorly, or what is lacking in the company?
- What would you do to improve the situation that is causing you to leave?
- Do you feel that employees have high morale and motivation in the company? If not, explain your feelings.
- How would you describe the culture of the company?
3. Job Satisfaction
While money does help, it takes more than just money to keep employees satisfied with their job. They need to be treated with respect, have trust between themselves and management, as well as have a sense of security through transparency and honest communication.
Not to mention, no one wants a dead-end job. Everyone wants to feel like they are working towards something, and for something of value. Perhaps your employee became bored of doing the same thing over and over again, and saw no room for growth in their current job. In what ways can you facilitate career growth in your company? Maybe the job isn’t what they expected it to be. This is your chance to look for ways to fix the job scope or even something as simple as the job description when advertising for the vacancy.
This is the most important topic of the interview as it directly correlates to their job.
- How did you feel about working here?
- What was most satisfying and least satisfying about your job?
- What would you change about your job?
- Did your job scope turn out to be as expected?
- Did this company help you fulfil your career goals?
- What ideas do you wish you could have implemented while you were here?
- Were you happy with the pay, benefits, or other incentives?
- Do you think management adequately recognised employee contributions? If not, how do you think recognition could be improved?
- Did you feel you had the tools, resources and working conditions to be successful in your role? If not, which areas could be improved and how?
- Was there anything especially challenging about your job that you had to deal with?
4. Supervision and Support
Having a solid supervision team not only helps make the work environment become a more positive and productive place to work in, it may also empower employees to be more successful. Thus it is crucial for you to find out if there are any pertinent issues with management, as it is key to retaining talented employees.
If the reason for your employee leaving is due to lack of support or poor management, this is where you will find out and take necessary actions to retain your future employees.
- What are the best things about your manager/supervisor?
- Did anyone have a positive impact on you and your career at the company?
- Do you feel you had the resources and support necessary to accomplish your job? If not, what was missing?
- How would you describe your relationship with your manager/supervisor?
- What could your manager/supervisor do to improve his or her management style and skill?
- Did you receive enough training to do your job effectively?
- Did you receive adequate support to do your job?
- Did you regularly receive adequate feedback about your performance?
The last part of the interview would be where you ask all the other random questions, or questions pertaining to finding a replacement. This is also where your employee may add anything they may want to mention that didn’t initially come up in the interview.
- Would you change or improve the onboarding process?
- Are there things that you wish you had known before you joined or during the early stages of your employment with our company?
- What do you think it takes to succeed in this organization?
- What advice do you have for the next person in your position?
- What skills and qualifications do you think we need to look for in your replacement?
- Would you recommend working for this company to your family and friends?
- Under what circumstances, if any, would you consider returning to the company?
- Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Goodbyes are bittersweet, but they don’t have to be plain bitter. End the meeting on a positive note, and thank the employee for their valuable service to the company. Wish them all the best in their new pursuit.
As tempting as it may be, don’t try to make or convince the employee to stay. This should have been done the moment you received the resignation letter. By now the time for it has passed, and after all, you would want your employees to feel they can raise issues as they happen – not only after they have decided to leave.
Afterwards, have a look at the information you have gathered and share key feedback points with the relevant personnel. If there seems to be a similar pattern from outgoing employees, identify the issue and discuss with the relevant management on actions to be taken to avoid losing more employees.
Hopefully, you will hold less and less exit interviews as your retention rate goes up!