Exit interviews provide a rare and valuable opportunity for honest feedback.
Other types of feedback—employee surveys, ongoing 1:1s, year-end reviews—are essential, but they can often be tempered by the expectations or influence of coworkers, supervisors, and managers. Employees want to provide an honest accounting of their experiences and challenges, but competing priorities, like making a positive impression or maintaining workplace relationships, can influence the type of information they share.
Though employee exits are rarely happy occasions, they can at least be turned into valuable learning experiences. Take a structured, thoughtful approach to exit interviews and you can shape the future of your company for the better—both increasing employee retention, and improving the quality of life for current employees.
What is an exit interview?
When an employee departs your company, it's helpful to arrange a brief discussion between the departing employee and a member of your HR team.
These discussions—known as exit interviews—provide an opportunity to gather feedback from the departing employee, to understand their reasons for leaving, reflect on their experience working at the company, and identify opportunities to better retain employees in the future.
How to run a better exit interview
Exit interviews don’t need to be daunting, so we're sharing five simple strategies for making exit interviews as purposeful—and positive—as possible.
1. Share your reasons for arranging the interview
Exit interviews can, at first glance, come across as intimidating experiences. Certain working conditions may mean that a departing employee wants to move on as quickly and quietly as possible; having a face-to-face conversation with an HR representative is the last thing on the employee's mind.
Much of this stress can be alleviated by being clear about the meeting's objectives. Let the employee know that you aren't trying to assign blame; the goal is simply to understand their reasons for leaving, and, if possible, identify areas where the company can improve in the future.
2. Make it the last thing you do
If you run the interview a week before their departure, there's always a risk that a colleague's criticism will make its way around the office, making the remainder of the employee's tenure awkward and uncomfortable, or dissuading them from sharing honest feedback.
Effective exit interviews require honest feedback, and that's best encouraged by having a face-to-face interview on the employee's last day—minimizing any potential consequences of that feedback. Running the interview with a single, neutral person—like a Human Resources rep and not a manager directly involved with the employee's day-to-day work—will help keep personal relationships from biasing feedback.