You know the saying “Ignorance is bliss?” Well, whoever said that was wrong. It should actually read “Ignorance is bliss for a moment, then it bites you in the arse.” There’s no place where this is truer than HR professionals discovering the true culture of their company. In a perfect world, the corporate culture standards we set would trickle down to every employee and every aspect of the business, but that isn’t usually the case. While it’s imperative that we know our company from top to bottom, inside and out, HR professionals sometimes aren’t privy to what employees don’t want us to know. That is why HR professionals can benefit from a good list of exit interview questions.
What is the point of an exit interview?
It may be that employees could be reprimanded for what they don’t want you to know, or it may just be that they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. No matter what the reason, what we don’t know can hurt us and our company. The culture of your company may seem to be sunshine and rainbows, but may actually be an F5 tornado. When employees provide honest feedback, we can learn from it and improve.
One of the best ways to get honest feedback is to ask employees who no longer rely on you for their livelihood. Hence, the importance of exit interviews. Exit interviews can reveal powerful insights that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You can conduct exit interviews face to face, use a service like Survey Monkey, or encourage company reviews on Glassdoor. Utilise this exit interview template for the UK to make the most of interviews with parting employees.
Good Exit Interview Questions in the UK
1. Why did you begin looking for a new job?
Asking this question opens up the opportunity for a variety of answers. You may see that an employee simply needed a job closer to home, or it may point to a specific instance or situation that sparked the search.
2. What ultimately led you to accept the new position?
This question will allow you to contrast your company’s position with a different organisation’s. The key to this answer is actually in what you don’t see. For instance, if an employee indicates that they are leaving for higher pay, this could mean that your compensation package isn’t competitive enough.
3. Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well?
If you want a direct way to better retain the employee who fills this position next, ask this question. Be prepared for tales of technology woes, inadequate training and more, but also be prepared to gain valuable knowledge of what you can do better next time.
4. How would you describe the culture of our company?
This question isn’t probing for specific examples, but instead will help you identify trends. As you keep track of employee exit interviews, watch for trends throughout to help your identify real concerns. Identifying trends can also help you separate legitimate concerns from personal opinion of employees who are emotional or feel negatively about the company.
[RELATED: How to Create a Culture of Belonging]
5. Can you provide more information, such as specific examples?
Your natural reaction may be to shy away from asking for specific examples, but this follow-up question, which is beneficial throughout your survey, may reveal personnel problems or other things that are easily fixed, preventing the loss of another employee.
6. What could have been done for you to remain employed here?
There is no question more direct than this one. Often, a frank question will give employees an opportunity to open up where they were afraid to before. Obviously this question isn’t aimed at fulfilling their request in order to keep them employed there, but it will help in the future.
7. Did you share your concerns with anyone at the company prior to leaving?
This common question points back to your employee culture and whether your employee felt comfortable to share concerns with superiors or coworkers. The key here is to understand if you promote an environment where employees feel safe and comfortable to voice their opinions.
8. If you could change anything about your job or the company, what would you change?
Though you’ll likely gain a lot of insight throughout the exit interview, this question will help the employee to focus in on the biggest or most important reason they’re leaving your company. This is also a non-confrontational way to encourage them to reveal the real reason they’re leaving, as it isn’t asking what they didn’t like, but what they would change. It shifts their answer from a complaint to a suggestion, which many people feel more comfortable providing. Often, just the way we ask a question can make all the difference.
9. Management is often a key factor in an employee's decision to leave. Were you satisfied with the way you were managed?
Asking your former employee about management is critical. Understanding if there’s any issues or direct problems will help you take preventative measures from losing future talent.
10. Did you have clear goals and objectives?
Employees don’t like feeling like they’re just a cog in the machine. They want to know that their work matters and helps drive towards a greater goal.
11. Did you receive constructive feedback to help you improve your performance?
Again, your employees don’t want to feel like they’re stagnant. Understanding their personal objectives, and helping them improve their arsenal of skills should be a key area of focus.
12. How can our company improve training and development programmes?
This ties into your ability to engage employees. Higher engagement leads to higher employee retention.
[RELATED: Employee Engagement Checklist]
13. Would you consider coming back to work here in the future? In what area or function? What would need to change?
Find out if employees would ever consider coming back. It could be that they just want to gain experience in a particular role, or may want an increase in compensation. Regardless, this is great information to have if different roles of interest open up.