10 Exit Interview Strategies for a Peaceful Transition

The exit interview is 1 of the most valuable tools that companies can utilize. Try these 10 best practices to discover why employees are leaving.

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10 Exit Interview Strategies for a Peaceful Transition

Here's what you need to know:

  • Exit interviews help companies recognize what is driving employees to leave — then, companies can improve practices and policies that may have contributed to those decisions
  • Best practices for exit interviews include scheduling them ahead of time, asking for written responses, and making them 1-on-1 meetings
  • Have the interview conducted by an outside party and take detailed notes during the interview
  • Ask detailed questions, look for detailed answers, and leave on a positive note
  • Gather and analyze the feedback from employees and strategize ways to fix recurring problems

Running a business usually means managing employees. Inevitably, some of those employees leave the company at some point. There are many reasons employees decide to resign from a job. In the worst-case scenario, they decide to leave for reasons related to the company itself.

No matter the reason, organizations benefit when they conduct an exit interview. Exit interviews help companies recognize what is driving employees to leave. Then, companies can improve practices and policies that may have contributed to those decisions.

The exit interview is 1 of the most valuable tools that companies have at their disposal.

The exit interview is 1 of the most valuable tools that companies have at their disposal. Asking employees for feedback needs to be a regular activity. However, employees on their way out are likely to be more forthcoming with information. Companies can gain valuable insights from exiting employees.

This article explains the importance of the exit interview and provides companies with 10 strategies for a peaceful transition.

What is the importance of the exit interview?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the employment landscape. Shutdowns shuttered many businesses, forcing employees onto unemployment.

Even after the heath crises abated somewhat, the damage was already done. Employees decided en masse to resign from long-held positions. So many workers quit their jobs in 2021 that the phenomenon earned a nickname: “The Great Resignation.”

So, what drove employees to quit their jobs and look for employment elsewhere? Many workers transitioned from working in offices to working from home. Some dove headfirst into entrepreneurial projects. Others decided that their jobs just weren’t good enough anymore.

In 2021, The Pew Research Center conducted a survey to figure out why so many employees were quitting their jobs. The results found that employees gave many similar reasons for their decision. Below is a list of the top responses.

  • 63% of workers quit because of low pay.
  • 63% quit because of a lack of opportunities for advancement.
  • 57% said they felt disrespected in the workplace.
  • 48% quit because they struggled to afford childcare.
  • 45% blamed a lack of flexibility in work schedules.
  • 43% said the benefits they received weren’t good enough.

The biggest reasons employees gave for quitting their jobs are things that companies directly control. The real question is: Do companies know this?

The answer is probably yes. Most companies have some idea of how their policies and practices affect employees. Despite that, many organizations don’t take decisive action to correct or improve the issues driving employees away. That’s where the exit interview can help.

The exit interview provides an opportunity for employers

The exit interview provides an opportunity to ask employees directly what led them to leave an organization. And their answers can help companies fix problems that lead to a high turnover rate. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost to replace a single employee is between 6 to 9 months of that employee’s salary.

Increasing retention rates has become more important than ever for organizations. Faced with a worker shortage and employees constantly looking for greener pastures, companies must make a concerted effort to pinpoint those things causing employees to leave.

It’s easy to see that the exit interview is a valuable tool if implemented correctly and followed up by decisive action. Below we’ve listed 10 exit interview strategies companies can use to foster a peaceful transition and create real change within their organization.

1. Schedule exit interviews ahead of time

Always provide the employee advance notice of the time and place for the interview. This allows them to set aside ample time to participate.

2. Provide a list of questions and ask for written responses

Giving the employee a copy of the interview questions ensures they take time with their responses. When they’re not answering under pressure, their responses will be more complete and well-thought-out.

3. Make it a 1-on-1 meeting

A face-to-face interview is the best way to gauge an employee’s true feelings. Plus, it helps employees feel that company executives have an actual interest in their experiences.

4. Have the interview conducted by an outside party

An HR executive is probably the best choice for this type of interview. They have the specialized training and experience to handle the situation with tact and care. Also, having a direct manager or supervisor present may inhibit the employee’s openness and desire to communicate.

Many times, employees leave a company because of issues that stem from managers. The employee will feel more comfortable sharing those concerns if the manager in question is not in attendance.

5. Take detailed notes during the interview

The person conducting the interview should ask questions in person. The employee will be likely to elaborate during a conversation. Taking notes regarding their comments will help pinpoint concerns after the interview.

6. Ask detailed questions and look for detailed answers

Exit interview questions need to evaluate an employee’s entire working experience. If the employee gives a general response, ask for specific examples. Some common questions to ask are:

  • What led you to look for another job?
  • What could the company have done differently that would have prompted you to stay?
  • Tell us about what you liked the most about your job. What did you like the least?
  • Did you feel recognized and appreciated at work?
  • Have you voiced these opinions or concerns before your decision to leave?

7. Ask the employee if they’re comfortable with you sharing their feedback

Ensure employees understand that their answers to these questions are confidential. They need to feel confident and comfortable sharing their experiences.

However, if employees are willing to share their feedback with others, especially direct supervisors or managers, it leads to greater opportunities for improvement.

8. Leave on a positive note, and don’t beg for them to stay

No matter how dire the hiring prospects may be, companies won’t gain anything by asking employees to reconsider their decision to quit. Instead, focus on creating a positive atmosphere for their departure. Thank them for their insight and time with the organization and wish them the best for their future.

9. Gather and analyze the feedback from employees

Individual responses can provide insight into areas that need improvement or change. But an even better strategy is to create a database of exit interview responses. This helps companies to recognize patterns and leads to a better understanding of where critical issues may lie.

10. Do something different next time to fix any problems

Now that the interview is over, it’s time to do something constructive with the results. Strategize ways to fix recurring problems.

For instance, are there a large number of employees mentioning a lack of benefits? Is there a repeated mention of a specific manager or coworker? Create paths for actionable change and find solutions to these issues.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

Offer employees thanks and appreciation on their way out

The exit interview is 1 of the best ways to gather feedback, and it’s the last chance a company will get to hear that feedback. Once the employee is gone for good, there’s no reopening that door.

Current and former employees are some of the best advocates for a company, but only if they feel positive about their time and experiences there. Providing out-going employees the opportunity to share their experiences openly is a great way to access information that can help companies improve.

Offer employees a friendly face and some words of thanks and encouragement on their way out. This creates brand ambassadors instead of leaving former employees feeling slighted and unappreciated.

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