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Helpful Tips for Effective Exit Interviews Amid the Great Resignation

by Elle Mason - June 24, 2022

Exit interviews are no new concept — but many HR managers are recently realizing the importance of this final touchpoint while offboarding employees to improve their retention strategies. They can be a great way for HR to understand why an employee left, and what can be done to keep others from leaving, as well as learn about other opportunities for improvement. To conduct an effective exit interview, HR should ask open-ended questions that will get candidates talking about the things they liked and disliked about their job, what they felt was missing from their day-to-day work life, and any other insights they may have had while on the job.

But even more forward-thinking are stay interviews – another option for companies looking to keep employees happy and engaged with their work. In these interviews, managers or HR will come in at various times during an employee’s tenure at a company and ask them about their satisfaction with the company and its culture. This can be helpful for companies looking to upgrade their benefits, improve work-life balance, or make a lateral move for an employee who wishes to explore other career opportunities.

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Stay interviews can also address the feeling of exit interviews being “too late” to address the challenges that may have driven an employee to leave. In fact, some employees grow to resent exit interviews and prefer not to engage with them for this exact reason – they feel that if the organization was sincere in wanting to improve, they would’ve asked and addressed things sooner.

And now that we’re still amidst The Great Resignation, stay interviews and exit interviews are all the more crucial.

Tips and Considerations on How to Conduct the Most Effective Exit Interview

  1. Clearly define the goals: Exit interviews can have many purposes. They can uncover HR-related issues, such as misaligned salary and benefits, or challenges with the talent management processes. Similarly, they can provide insights into HR benchmarks and market conditions at competing organizations. They can help you understand how employees perceive the actual work, including the working conditions, organizational culture, how the job is designed, and other areas related to motivation and effectiveness. Exit interviews can also be tools for learning about manager styles and effectiveness, soliciting ideas for improvement, and ensuring the employees leave the organization feeling respected and appreciated.
  2. Interviewers and interviewees: Will you interview every employee that departs from the organization or will you limit it? Depending on the size of the organization, some limit interviewers to people of a certain rank or position and high-performers that are difficult to replace. Who will conduct the interview? It’s typically best practice to make sure that this person is at least one layer removed from the employee – as you can imagine, it might be difficult to be candid about an ineffective manager if the manager discussed is the one conducting the interview.
  3. Timing: There’s an ideal spot between when the employee submits their resignation and before they’ve lost engagement and mentally “checked out” from the role. Often, exit interviews come too late and people are interested in sharing – or being as forthcoming and pensive as they would’ve otherwise have been.
  4. Structure and Manner: Some organizations conduct two exit interviewers with one led internally and one conducted by a more impartial external consultant. Others hold them exclusively face-to-face or by telephone. These are considerations that might change depending on your resources. But regardless, great importance should be given to the manner of the interviewer. Interviewers should be patient, friendly, and non-reactive. They shouldn’t rebut or try to resolve and they should bring an open-mind free from judgment and bias – to the degree that it’s possible.
  5. Action: How will the organization collect, analyze and act on the data and insights that they gain from exit interviews? How will they ensure confidentiality and discretion? If there are gaps identified, will they be communicated back to employees? Some organizations even allow exiting employees to select their interviewer, location/method, length of the interview and other details to give them a sense of sharing on their own terms.

Potential Question Bank to Use for Your Next Exit Interview

  1. Was there a specific factor or element of working here that prompted you to start looking for a new job?
  2. Would you ever consider returning to the company? If so, under what circumstances?
  3. Were there any policies that lacked clarity or were otherwise not suitable?
  4. Did you feel that your contributions and achievements received adequate recognition?
  5. Did you feel that you had the necessary training, tools, time, and resources to be effective in your role?
  6. Did you feel that your job was rewarding? Challenging? Too easy or difficult? Could the working conditions be improved in any way?
  7. Did you have opportunities to learn, develop, use your strengths and work on what you enjoyed?
  8. Was your manager a contributing factor in deciding to stay or leave? If so, in what ways?
  9. Was there anything in particular that you liked about your job, team, or the organization?
  10. Do you have any suggestions or opportunities for improvement?

What are the next steps?

One of the quickest ways to demoralize employees is to ask them to be honest, open, candid and vulnerable – and then do absolutely nothing with the insights that you receive from them. It’s critical that you analyze the data from exit interviews: Are there common refrains that come up repeatedly? What is the biggest cause of attrition? Are people having problems with their managers? Policies? Culture? Health and safety? From there, you’ll be able to develop takeaways and action plans for tackling turnover head-on.

How GoCo Can Help

  • Automated and Standardize your employee offboarding process Offboarding doesn’t have to be messy and painful. With GoCo’s offboarding checklists, HR managers can standardize and digitize termination to-do’s and make offboarding smoother: tasks and due dates are assigned dynamically in GoCo, teams are always in sync, reminders are automated, and you can see tasks statuses at a glance.Build a custom offboarding/exit interview checklist, dynamically set owners and due dates to offboarding tasks, and track progress on workflows.
  • Ensure exiting employees have a copy of any relevant policies — An HRIS platform like GoCo makes it easy to upload these documents to an employee’s account so they can access them at any time — you can also track the dates documents were assigned or acknowledged by employees for report and compliances purposes.

See how GoCo can simplify your HR