Why you should conduct an exit interview, and how to do it

Exit Interview
by Holly Burnett 30 June 2021

Many organisations ramped up their employee engagement strategy during the pandemic. However, according to HR software firm Personio, four in ten employees (38 percent) of UK employees are still planning to quit their job in the next six to twelve months. A whopping 58 percent of the tech workers are considering a career change. The truth is that remote working has left workers pondering new job opportunities that align with their beliefs rather than their commute. Therefore, employers must get a handle on employee satisfaction.

Exit interviews are often seen as a tick box exercise; why wait until someone is about to leave before asking them why? Conducting an exit interview won’t help you reduce your attrition rate; instead, you need to gather feedback all year round continuously. You can also conduct what are known as ‘stay interviews’ where you ask employees about their experience, the workplace culture, and their current pain points.

In their survey, Personio identified the most common reasons for resignation: lack of career progression, an unappreciative workplace, poor management, pay freezes, and even boredom. Replacing an employee costs around 21 percent of their salary, initiatives such as quarterly pay reviews may help ascertain whether an employee is unhappy with their salary. In addition, Generation Y and Z are also more likely to expect career advancement quickly; therefore, introducing a mentoring scheme or clear pathways to promotion could help keep them on board.

However, with many researchers warning of a ‘talent exodus’, it’s worth considering your approach to exit interviews. Generally, you’re trying to ascertain why an individual has decided to leave a particular role with an exit interview. The feedback may help you attract new employees, tackle a toxic culture or even alter responsibilities and how the business operates. To help you understand whether the changes are effective, you can monitor reasons for leaving and your staff turnover rate. Exit interviews can also provide closure and can help to prevent legal action.

Exit interview guidance

Bear in mind that exit interviews are not mandatory for employees. However, to help personnel make their mind up, you must reassure people they will not be judged on any remarks they make. 

  • Make confidentially a priority - report all responses anonymously to HR, make this known to any employee who takes part in an exit interview.
  • Provide training for all individuals conducting the interview.
  • Some employees may feel anxious about their exit interview. Consider whether an independent body, a neutral interviewer, an offsite location, or a written exit interview might help you increase your completion rate.
  • You may ask the individual to complete a short survey before the interview, which can help the interviewer guide the discussion and ensures the interviewee feels prepared and happy to go ahead.
  • According to Harvard Business Review, the most productive time to conduct exit interviews is between the announcement of resignation and the day of departure. 
  • Refer to other employee feedback to gauge the level of engagement from that individual and what concerns they may have raised in the past.
  • Ensure each interviewer has a checklist that also features action points for consideration. 

You may want to ask questions regarding the company culture, management styles, compensation, and the resources to help the individual thrive in the role, but here are some other suggestions.

Exit interview Questions

  1. Is your manager aware of your reason for leaving?
  2. What attracted you to your new employer?
  3. Is there anything we could have done to encourage you to stay?
  4. What did you enjoy most about your job?
  5. Is there anything you would change about your job?
  6. How can we help your replacement succeed?
  7. Which individuals were most helpful during your time with us?
  8. Did you feel like we embraced you as a company?
  9. Would you recommend working here?
  10. Is there anything we should differently as an organisation?
  11. What should we do more of, and what should we do less of?

Above all else, offering to complete an exit interview signals to employees that you want to listen. So why would you turn down the opportunity for feedback?

Remember, an exit interview will not help you improve your staff turnover alone; it needs to be combined with regular feedback in various forms and at different points in the year.

Crimson is an IT consultancy, an IT solutions provider, an IT recruitment agency, and a Microsoft Gold Partner operating across the UK.

Topics: Employee Retention, Employee Engagement, Exit Interviews, HR