Founding Director of PeopleSense (a brand under Altius) Anya Stephens, considers the benefits of conducting exit interviews.

Outgoing employees are an excellent source of information that can be harnessed to improve the organisation and make it a better place to work for future employees.  

Asking staff for their opinion about the organisation in surveys and meetings can give you valuable insight. But if you want a deeper understanding about problem areas and staff retention, you should be conducting exit interviews.

What is an Exit Interview?

An exit interview is a discussion with a staff member who has resigned from the organisation. Asking the employee about their experience working there can help identify problem areas. Using the information gained in interviews, management can make changes to improve retention rates and level of engagement for current and future employees.

Why It’s Worth Conducting Exit Interviews with Staff

For little time and expense, exit interviews can provide valuable information that can’t be achieved through other communications with staff. As the person has already resigned, they may be more open and willing to share their honest reasons for leaving.

Staff Retention

Exit interviews can lead to better staff retention rates. Asking an employee why they’re leaving can lead the organisation to change the way they recruit, promote, train and engage staff. Reducing the turnover rate means less time and money spent on training new staff and gives a business a tremendous advantage as they are keeping their top performers.

Better Insight

A staff member leaving an organisation is more likely to speak frankly about its shortcomings or management than someone who’s still employed. Even if you ask a current employee to give a confidential response to questions, they may hold back out of concern their responses could be traced back.

But some organisations aren’t conducting exit interviews, and valuable information isn’t being tapped. Other organisations do the interviews but don’t analyse the data, learn from it and make changes. As an organisation, you should review this data from the interview and measure the effectiveness with the positive changes you make.

What to Ask During an Exit Interview

You will want to ask ex-employees questions about areas of the business that can be changed to assist current and future employees. Exit interviews can give an invaluable insight into:

  • understanding the workplace culture
  • how to improve management
  • employee morale and how it can be improved
  • gaps in training, how to improve recruitment and on-boarding

Common Questions Asked at Exit Interviews

An exit interview should provide an excellent overview of the employee’s time with the organisation and how they feel about staff morale, culture of the organisation, management, and how the company could improve. An exit interview can also provide details of salary and benefits offered at competing organisations. Some questions you can ask ex-employees in an exit interview include:

  • Why are you leaving the company?
  • What did you like & dislike about your role?
  • What would you change about your role?
  • How did you find the management style?
  • How would you rate the staff morale at this organisation?
  • How would you rate the culture of the organisation?
  • How could we improve?
  • Did we help you accomplish your professional development and career goals?
  • What did you find attractive about your new role?

Who Should Conduct the Exit Interview?

The role of the best person to conduct exit interviews depends on the organisation. In a large company, a person from HR will often conduct the interview so the ex-employee can talk frankly about their manager or how their department functions. In a smaller organisation with no HR manager, the staff member’s manager, the business owner or colleague may conduct the interview.

Conducting an effective exit interview takes skill and practice. Not every manager feels comfortable holding their first few exit interviews and may feel they need training. HR should encourage interviewers to ask for help, if required.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.