Exit Interview Best Practices

Employee turnover is a vital metric in every organization’s planning. If you don’t measure and address it, it won’t improve. Exit interviews can be a simple tool to help you collect more information about what is causing turnover and other potentially negative factors in your organization.  

 The effectiveness of exit interviews requires a well-balanced approach. Have a plan to introduce your workforce to the idea of exit interviews and what to expect if their time ends with the company. An employer may hesitate to send an email to the current employee population beginning with the words “When you decide to leave the organization.” However, failing to inform anyone in the organization about the ongoing exit interviews can severely limit the program’s effectiveness.

In a scenario where a supervisor is contacted by a former employee who recently departed from the organization, effective communication is crucial. The ex-employee informs the supervisor about being approached for an exit interview and expresses the need to verify the survey’s legitimacy before participating. Regrettably, when the supervisor responds with “I’ve never heard of them,” the employee decides to forgo the opportunity to complete the survey and provide invaluable feedback. This situation underscores the significance of an effective communication strategy, which involves understanding the appropriate sender and recipient, selecting the right communication method, and recognizing the benefits it brings.

While it may not be necessary to inform the entire employee population about the exit interviews, it is important for managers to be aware of the program. As demonstrated in the aforementioned example, the awareness of managers regarding the interviews significantly impacts their employees’ willingness to provide feedback. Consequently, if a communication plan is to be delivered to all managers, it is crucial to determine the appropriate sender for this message.

How to Conduct an Exit Interview

Business communication is most effective when coming from the CEO/President or a member of a leadership team. These are individuals that managers recognize and respect, which makes establishing expectations and accountability more effective.

Ideally, awareness and expectations are made with managers when the program is first put in place, since this allows managers to feel in-the-loop and to buy into the system. In order to create buy-in and make the system effective, it’s vital to let managers know the interviews will be occurring, what’s expected of them to make the program successful, and the benefits they’ll receive for their efforts. If the interviews have already started, a later communication can be sent with minor tweaks.

Let your managers know if an employee gives notice to leave their current position, let them know they’ll be contacted for an exit interview and to make sure their employee’s contact information is correct.

Creating awareness and establishing expectations with managers comes with a number of benefits. By avoiding examples like the opening scenario, the survey will see less refusals to participate. Positively impacting participation provides a better snapshot of data trends and reasons for leaving, which also creates buy-in to the data from stakeholders.

Creating awareness about exit interviews to managers shows them you have a vested interest in improving the organization and value the feedback the organization receives. It creates a culture trust, and encourages managers to engage their employees in other feedback opportunities in the future.

Improve the Exit Interview Process

The idea of building a communication strategy for exit interviews is an unknown concept to some, but following an effective strategy; having the right stakeholders send the right message to the right audience, buy-in and accountability from your managers is created, while providing the additional benefit of increasing the survey’s response rate. Forming an effective strategy is a key component to ultimately creating meaningful organizational improvement through your feedback.

What Do I Do with Exit Survey Data? 

Once you start leveraging feedback, you no longer are making assumptions about what could improve your workplace, you are learning directly from your people. With exit data, please keep in mind that not every employee that leaves will have an axe to grind. They can provide valuable insights into why they left, but also help uncover other factors that may be contributing to a long-term issue.  

To help you get started, we have compiled 5 best practices that can set you up for a successful exit interview survey strategy.  

  1. Focus on Communication 
  • This will play a large role in whether your employees will feel comfortable participating in the feedback process. There should be open and clear communication with all employees about what exit interview surveys are, and where they fall in the exit process. 
  • Let them know what your team plans on doing with the feedback they provide and how it can make a difference in the workplace. Share details about the format of the survey, how it will be shared, and when they should expect to receive it. Most importantly, encourage them to participate. 
  1. Keep it Confidential 
  • Like current employees, departing employees can have qualms about being open and honest in their feedback. Although they may be leaving, they don’t want to burn any bridges by covering potential touchy subjects in their exit interview survey.
  • We recommend keeping all exit feedback anonymous so employees can voice their opinions without fear of repercussions. You can do this by sending anonymous survey links, not asking for any identifying information in the survey, and limiting the number of people who have access to the data. 
  • On top of that, you will need to communicate and assure your team that their responses will be kept confidential and will never be used against them. By building this trust with your team they will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts when the time comes. 
  1. Give Them Options 
  • You may assume that emailing out the link is the best option for your team, but this is not always the case and it might not be the best method for everyone. Along with sending the link via email, consider using an SMS option where the link can be sent as a text message to their cell phone or mobile device. 
  • Depending on your industry, you may have a large hard-to-reach population. Consider adding an option for out-calling for those employees where our team of experts will contact your employees and conduct the exit interview survey over the phone. We’ve seen companies achieve high participation rates and get more detailed responses with this method. 
  1. Find The Insights 
  • In most cases, it may take some sifting through the data and responses to find useful pieces of information. As you are combing through your responses, try to remain neutral and objective about the feedback, especially if it is negative.
  • When possible, try to avoid moments of explaining away your findings with thoughts like “others probably don’t feel the same way” or “that was just a disgruntled employee”. Negative feedback is oftentimes the most useful because it lets you know where you need to focus your efforts.   
  1. Pull it all Together 
  • Take your findings and use them as a blueprint to create a plan of action that is attainable and timely. In your plan, you will want to lay out the steps that need to be followed and who’s responsible for each one. The more detailed and specific you make your plan, the better it can be followed by your team. 
  • Once you feel confident with your action plan you can start putting it into motion, but remember you don’t have to act on everything all at once. It may take some fine-tuning and adjustments before you notice any change so be patient with yourself and your team. 
  • Simply responding to your employee feedback shows them that you value them and their voice. After implementation, don’t forget to measure new data against previous exit feedback to benchmark your progress. 

With these 5 best practices under your belt, you should be well on your way to conducting successful exit interview surveys.

Explore The People Element Employee Experience Solution

We make employee feedback simple and easy with our all-inclusive platform that is filled with research-backed survey templates, data analysis tools, and an action plan builder. We’ve been a leader in third-party exit interview surveys for decades and worked with countless organizations to better their workplaces. Need some help knowing how to improve your communication strategy? Contact People Element today and start on your path to better results.

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