In a good economy with low unemployment rates, retaining your employees is more important than ever. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, voluntary quit rates rise as unemployment drops.
Recruiting replacements for lost employees isn’t easy, and it affects your bottom line:
- Replacing a lost employee cost, on average, 21% of his or her salary.1
- More than 75% of UK companies report challenges with employee retention.2
While you can’t always convince departing employees to stay, you can gather valuable information from them before they leave to help you improve career development practices, strengthen your culture, and uncover other key issues that may be affecting your ability to retain employees. In this eBook, we’ll explore the benefits of conducting exit interviews, cover best practices for a strong exit interview programme, and share a list of questions to get you started.
1. Benefits of Exit Interviews
Pinpoint Opportunities for Employee Development
A study from Glassdoor Economic Research found that employees are about three times more likely to leave for a new employer than to stay and move into a new role at their existing company.3 Simply put, job title stagnation hurts employee retention. And it’s particularly important for Millennials.
Exit interviews can give you valuable information to help prevent more of these motivated employees from jumping ship.
Get Insight Into Management Issues
Sometimes problems with management can be hard to spot because relationships between managers and staff are so individualised. But a steady stream of exits from a particular group can be grounded in issues that aren’t revealed in other review processes.
Given that half of all US employees have left a job to get away from their manager at some point in their career,5 it’s likely that you’ll find some constructive feedback for managers while conducting exit interviews.
Stay Up to Date with Compensation
Compensation is a common reason that employees leave. Exit interviews will help you find out if that’s really the case, and then decide if the problem is significant enough for you to revisit your compensation strategy.
By tracking where your employees are heading, and from which departments they’re leaving, you’ll gain insight into the local workplace economy. Use this information to inform your recruiting tactics and potentially adjust your remuneration package to keep up with a particular competitor. Alternately, you can use the competitive information to position your company’s unique perks and culture upfront with future candidates.
Strengthen Your Employer Brand
The act of asking departing employees for constructive feedback shows employees that you value the insight they’ve gathered in their time with you, and demonstrates your company’s interest in improving. It also allows you to gather information about branding efforts that might have fallen short, or where actions are out of alignment with stated values.
You can use information about the factors they appreciated to strengthen your communication with candidates and share with other team members as you celebrate your culture.
2. 10 Best Practices for Exit Interviews
A strong exit interview plan allows you to collect relevant information from candidates, track trends over time, share findings, and follow up with action.
Follow these guidelines to get the most out of your exit interviews:
- CONDUCT 1-1 INTERVIEWS. Some companies use an online or written questionnaire in addition to in-person or phone interviews. While questionnaires allow candidates to provide answers in an anonymous environment and surface trackable responses, 1-1 interviews offer a better opportunity to probe and build personal rapport. A candid conversation can create goodwill, potentially strengthening your employer brand — even with departing candidates. For this reason, we recommend using 1-1 interviews to start and adding a written or online component if time permits.
- PICK ONE INTERVIEWER FROM HR. Whenever possible, have the same person from HR (or a third party) conduct all your exit interviews. Over time, this person will gain knowledge of ongoing retention issues and be able to probe more effectively. If it isn’t possible to choose the same person, make sure the exit interviewers come from the same group.
- INTERVIEW ALL VOLUNTARY SEPARATIONS. Employees at any level who choose to leave are great sources of information about your company and its culture. Those who are laid off or fired may be too sensitive to provide constructive information.
- ASK EVERYONE THE SAME QUESTIONS. A consistent set of questions will allow you to spot trends over time. Because some questions may only be pertinent to a particular department or role, leave time in the interview for job-specific questions.
- COLLECT DATA IN ONE PLACE. Whether it’s a folder on a shared drive or a spot within your HR management software, capture notes from the interviews. Note the department, group, reason for leaving, and the name of the company the individual is leaving for as the most high-level information.
- ANALYSE FINDINGS. Over time, you may notice common themes as to why people leave, uncovering issues within specific departments, with specific managers, or at a particular level of seniority. You’ll also notice similarities around what people liked about the company the most. You may spot opportunities for deeper engagement with employees, find out that a particular company value wasn’t resonating with this individual, or discover that a new initiative or key leader is turning people away.
- FOLLOW UP WITH CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK. If existing employees mention any workplace safety or legal issues, follow up with the appropriate parties immediately. For feedback relating to departmental or managerial issues, convey the information to the appropriate managers in a way that’s consistent with your culture. Discuss the themes that emerge over time in HR and management meetings.
- INCORPORATE FINDINGS WITH GLASSDOOR FEEDBACK. Exit interview findings are an excellent supplement to Glassdoor reviews. Include both exit interview data and Glassdoor feedback in your regularly scheduled HR and recruiting planning sessions.
- HIGHLIGHT POSITIVE FEEDBACK. By asking departing employees about what they liked about their job, you’ll be able to collect information about the successful aspects of your workplace. Satisfied employees who leave for a career change, long-distance move, or international adventure will be your best sources of positive information. Don’t forget to mention it when providing feedback to managers and executives about retention.
- LOOK FOR RECRUITING LESSONS. Some exit interview findings can be used to help you recruit more of the right people — people who will be more likely to stay. For example, the job description may have shifted or been inaccurate, or the stated path to promotion was unrealistic. Perhaps a particular personality trait or value doesn’t resonate in that group or at the company as a whole. Review exit interview data with an eye towards what traits you can look for in candidates, and what can improve the accuracy of your communication to them.
3. Exit Interview Questions
Set up the exit interview by making the departing employee feel comfortable, and letting them know that their service to the company is deeply appreciated. Tell them that you hope to learn from their experience what the company is doing well and how it can improve.
As you construct your list of questions, make sure that you cover the following topics:
- Reason for leaving
- Satisfaction with the job itself
- Satisfaction with direct manager and manager
- Company culture
- Compensation and perks
Following is a list of recommended core questions. Remember that certain questions may uncover some of the above topics even though they don’t specifically mention it. To probe, ask “why” and drill down for specific examples.
- Why did you begin looking for a new job? Answers to this question will give you a wide range of feedback. You may learn that an employee simply needed a job closer to home, or that a specific situation sparked the search. You could also learn about a competitor’s recruitment tactics.
- What ultimately led you to accept the new position? This question allows you to contrast your company’s offering with an employment competitor. It may also offer clues about how well your company meets career development needs. You may find that a competitor offers better pay, opportunities for advancement, or work-life balance.
- Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well? Is there any way we could have helped you do your job better? This gives you direct insight into how to retain the next employee who fills this position. You may hear tales of technology woes, inadequate training, or lack of managerial support. On the other hand, you may simply learn that training and support were adequate and other factors were more pertinent to the decision to leave.
- Were you given clear goals and objectives for your role and for advancement? Sometimes job descriptions change on the fly, or organisational priorities shift. Find out if there were any ways that the employee’s expectations could have been better managed.
- Please describe your relationship with your manager. Were you satisfied with the way you were managed? Answers to this question help you hone in on the traits needed for the replacement hire, and help you uncover any issues pointing to dysfunction in that particular department.
- How would you describe the culture of our company? Getting an insider’s read on the culture will help you better articulate it to candidates and understand how accurate your employer brand messaging is.
- What specifically did you like about working here? What will you miss the most? Asking for specific examples gives you ammunition for future recruiting. It also fosters a sense of goodwill with the departing employee by focusing on happy memories.
- What did you dislike about your job? Whether it’s bureaucracy, procedures, grunt work or clashing personalities, you’ll get a more realistic view of the position. Use this information to hone in on key qualities needed for future hires and give important feedback to the department.
- What are your views about management and leadership at the company? Since top leaders often set the tone, asking this question gives the departing employee an opportunity to express what might be valuable insight on how leadership is being perceived within the company.
- Were you satisfied with pay and other perks and incentives here? Is there anything we could improve? While you may not be able to change certain things, it’s worth knowing how employees perceive your remuneration package, particularly as they head off to a competitor.
- 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. Expect to receive valuable information about the working environment, development opportunities, or the manager.
- 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. It shifts their answer from a complaint to a suggestion, which many people feel more comfortable providing.
- Would you consider coming back to work here in the future? In what area or function? What would need to change? Organisational knowledge is an important asset, so it’s worth finding out if they’d consider future employment.
- Would you recommend the company as a good place to work to your friends and family? Former employees can still be brand ambassadors. If their experience was reasonably good, they might know people who would be perfect fits for particular roles within your culture.
- Would you write a review on Glassdoor? Glassdoor reviews help future employees get a better idea of what it’s like to work at your company. Reminding a departing employee of their power to help others out shows your company’s commitment to transparency.
4. Additional Tips for Exit Interviewing
Close the Interview Remember, the exit interview may be one of the last interactions your company has with a valued former employee. Thank them for their service and their time, in participating in the interview. Let them know that their feedback will be used to help the company improve. And, of course, wish them the best for the future!
Respond to Glassdoor Reviews from Former Employees
Reviews from former employees can be valuable sources of feedback. When you respond to these reviews on Glassdoor, thank the reviewer for their service and the feedback. If you know of any changes that have been made since the employee worked at the company, take the time to address them in your response. Doing so will show candidates that you listen to and value employee feedback.
How to Conduct Better Interviews >
Popular approaches to interviewing and hiring the right talent.
Employee Satisfaction Surveys >
Everything you need to measure employee engagement with internal surveys.
The ROI of Employer Brand >
Learn why an authentic employer brand is essential to recruiting and retaining quality talent.
Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace >
How to build a strong diversity and inclusion programme guaranteed to attract top talent.
Source: 1. Heather Boushey and Sarah Jane Glynn (November 16, 2012). “There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees,” Center for American Progress Issue Brief. Available at www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2012/11/16/44464/there-are-significant-business-costs-to-replacing-employees/; Source 2. CIPD, Resourcing and Talent Planning 2015, June 2015, Source: 3. Glassdoor Economic Research, Why Do Workers Quit? February 2016; Source: 4. Becoming Irresistible, Deloitte, February 2015; Source: 5. State of the American Manager, Gallup, April 2015; Source: 6. CIPD, Employee Outlook: Autumn 2016, November 2016; 2Glassdoor online survey conducted in the US by Harris Poll, October 1-5, 2015;