Your complete guide to exit/stay interviews

Your complete guide to exit/stay interviews
An exit interview is an opportunity to gain insight into why staff are leaving and get candid feedback on their experience with your organisation. It is a vital measuring tool for your business! 

Not only this, but provided there is follow-through, exit interviews are an opportunity to make changes that will improve employee engagement and keep the best talent in your business.

preparing for the interview

The first thing to consider is whether you want the exit interview to be conducted by a person within the business or an external body – one thing to know is that exit interview should never be conducted by their direct manager. 

There are pros and cons for both, but many argue the choice should belong to the person who is leaving. To obtain the most valuable insights, it's essential that the leaver is absolutely comfortable with the interviewer to express their true thoughts.

To encourage employees to be candid in their responses, many businesses have started to embrace digital formats to deliver their exit interviews, such as an online survey or through Google Forms. This not only allows the employee to consider their responses in private, it reduces the difficulty of scheduling a time to conduct the interview. In some instances, the process is entirely automated, something that is achieved with the help of marketing automation software. The software can be programmed to send emails to contacts when they reach specific milestones and ask them questions about their satisfaction with the company. This is a highly-valuable communication tool not only for employees, but customers and clients also.

the purpose of the interview: The find out the real reason employees are leaving

Salary is a reason people accept a job, but is rarely the reason people leave. Research has indicated that the primary reasons for leaving include a lack of opportunity for career advancement, a lack of interest in the work and poor management (see article 8 reasons why employees really leave and how to stop them).

It is important for the interviewer to get to the bottom of the individual’s reasons for leaving, rather than simply accepting a comfortable, surface-level explanation. This is the purpose of the interview.

Prior to the interview, give the leaver time to prepare. Ensure they have been provided with a reference and let them know their responses will be kept strictly confidential. Explain that all feedback, positive and negative, is valuable and will be acted upon. Describe the process that is in place for their information to make real change. During an exit interview, the leaver may not want to burn bridges and so will only describe the kinder, surface-level reasoning for their decision to leave. You need to make them feel as safe as possible if they are to tell the truth. The interview should not be rushed or interrupted, and detailed notes must be made and kept.

the questions you should and shouldn't ask

The interviewer should never use ‘leading questions’ - questions that will cause the interviewee to answer in a specific way or that will send their thoughts in a particular direction. Examples of leading questions to avoid are:

  • Are you leaving because of a particular manager?
  • Is there something you don’t like about the organisational culture?
  • Were you unhappy with the lack of career advancement opportunities?
A great exit/stay interview is about asking open-ended questions and then listening intently to the interviewee. Allow them to speak their mind before probing into the specific points they have made. Examples of open-ended questions are:

  • What first made you consider leaving the business?
  • What could the business do to improve?
  • How might you describe this business to your friends?
It's important to standardise particular questions so that you can begin to track trends from a number of employees against each other. This will allow you to make measured conclusions about why employees are really leaving. Once identified, you will then be able to measure whether the business is improving in these areas.

acting on the information

The worst type of exit interview is the one that is conducted and never acted on. As soon as you can, process the responses and create a report. This can be created in a number of formats and in a number of ways, as long as it gives you final “action points” to process. Without action points you won’t be able to make real changes. To ensure this happens:

  • File information, with all personal identifiers removed, through to senior management and line managers of relevant departments. Follow up on whether any actions have been taken.
  • Add action points to be discussed at HR and other relevant meetings.
  • Create a whole-of-business annual performance based on the outcomes of exit interviews.

Rather than keeping the findings from exit interviews confined to the management team, it's beneficial for current staff to see that exit interview information is being acted upon. Likewise, if leavers know that their thoughts and feelings have been valued by the business, they are more likely to speak positively about your organisation in public circles.

Use this information to inform and improve your strategy for keeping people. What works? What doesn’t? This gives you a great resource of data to start fine-tune your strategy!

Posted: Tuesday, 21 March 2017 - 2:30 PM