Exit Interview Best Practices

5 Best Practices for a Successful Exit Interview

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

You may be wondering “How are exit interview surveys different than traditional exit interviews?”. Similar to a traditional exit interview, exit interview surveys are a way for departing employees to shed light on specific reasons they are leaving the company, areas that they think need improvement, and provide their perception of your workplace culture. However, instead of being in the form of a face-to-face interview with an HR representative, they are distributed as a survey or questionnaire that the departing employee can fill out. Both approaches are great options for departing employees to share their valuable insights, but by removing the face-to-face interview element, respondents may provide more candid and honest feedback. The survey format may also be easier to administer, saving you time and energy, especially with a large workforce.  


What Do I Do with Exit Survey Data? 

The short answer is that you can use the data to plan and make more informed decisions about where to focus your efforts. Once you start leveraging feedback, you no longer are making assumptions about what could improve your workplace, you are learning directly from your people. The results you gather can be used to create a plan of action that can function as a roadmap for implementation. 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.  

Collecting data and implementing change provide a dual benefit to the organization. First, through a well-thought-out action plan, you can actually address the underlying issues and improve that area of the organization. Second, your employees will appreciate that you are listening to their input and acting on it. This can build a relationship of trust and respect between you and your team. 

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 

Communication is a big deal when it comes to exit interview surveys. It 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. Be sure to keep managers in the loop about any updates or changes surrounding the exit interview survey process so that they can inform their employees or answer any questions that may come up. 

2. 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. 

3. Give Them Options 

You may assume that emailing out the link to an exit interview survey is the best option for your team. This is not always the case and it might not be the best method for everyone. Take into consideration that your employees are all unique and some survey methods may not work well for them. Some of your workforce may not check their email often and could miss the link, others may have a field position where they don’t always have access to the internet. There are many situations where having alternative options could allow more employees to participate. 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. These two options create a solid distribution plan but still don’t cover all your bases. Depending on your industry, you may have a large hard-to-reach population that could still use a different approach. Consider adding an option for out-calling for those employees. Out-calling is a service we offer here at People Element 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. 

4. Find The Insights 

Once you have collected your data from your departing employees, it’s time to put your thinking cap on and look for any insights. In most cases, it may take some sifting through the data and responses to find useful pieces of information. Not every exit interview survey is going to provide tons of rich data on its own, but over time you may start observing trends that can guide action. 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.   

5. Pull it all Together 

Okay, time to connect the dots! 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. Remember that you don’t have to act on everything all at once. You can take it in small pieces and evaluate its effectiveness as you go. Not every initiative will create a large change for your organization, so do not get discouraged. 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. If you are interested in learning more about how you can take your exit feedback and overall listening strategy to the next level, 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. We want to help you listen, engage, and inspire your people like never before. 

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