A good leader asks questions, strives to do better, and takes opportunities to learn wherever possible. One of the best ways to do all these things is through an exit interview.
You want to learn why your employee left, what brought about this bad outcome, and how you can avoid it in the future. An exit interview can teach you all these things as long as it’s done right.
Here are some tips to make your exit interviews as productive as they can be!
Finding Timing That’s Just Right
Timing is everything when it comes to an exit interview. You don’t want to just get information, you want to get the right information, and that means knowing when to do your exit interview and when not to.
“Some experts argue that the most productive moment to conduct the initial EI is halfway between the announcement of an intention to leave and the actual departure—after the initial rush of emotion has died down, but before the employee has checked out mentally.” – HBR
You want to be able to get useful information from the exit interview and that means timing it when emotions get in the way as little as possible. Leaving a job is emotional, that’s unavoidable, but you can still find time to conduct the exit interview after they’ve begun to process leaving, but before they’ve actually left.
Don’t Justify the Problems
During the exit interview, let the employee vent. If they are upset about some policy your company has, don’t justify the policy. Instead, ask the employee how they’d solve it. Asking questions and finding solutions gets you useful information, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the problem.
“The key to conducting an effective exit interview is to create an environment in which the exiting employee is comfortable providing honest feedback.” – The Balance Careers
You want honest information, which will be hard to get if you try to justify the problems your employee is telling you about.
Be a Listener
The exit interview isn’t about what you think of the employee or the job, it’s about finding out what the employee thinks of the employer and the job. It can be tempting to talk about your opinions and feelings towards the job but if you want the exit interview to be productive you have to be able to simply listen.
“The smartest CEOs are vulnerable, open to hearing what they don’t know, and are always trying to learn.” – Cameron Herold
When you start inserting your opinions into the exit interview, the employee might start to feel the need to defend their choice of leaving. When the employee feels the need to defend themselves, they’re going to start closing themselves off and therefore closing off any potentially useful information you might have gotten.
The Follow-Up Questionnaire
Frequency plays an important role in getting honest information. Having another exit interview doesn’t necessarily mean having a face-to-face interview again. Consider instead sending a questionnaire or survey to the employee a couple of months after they’ve left.
“Some companies have the first interview, but also a follow-up interview a few months later. Research has found that employees can change their opinions when given time to reflect. 59% changed their reasons for leaving and 100% gave a reason for leaving in the follow-up interview even if they didn’t give one in the first interview.” – HPPY
Your goal is to get as much honest feedback as possible to make the exit interview productive. By conducting a follow-up questionnaire a couple of months later you’ll get more thought out answers because the employee has had time to process why they left.
Act on the Data
The exit interview itself is only half the work. You need to collect the information learned in these exit interviews, then organize it, distribute it, and learn from it.
“You want to make sure that exit interview data reaches key decision-makers in your organization who can implement changes as effectively as possible.” – Process St.
The goal of the exit interview was to learn and that means sharing the information with the people that need to know. The exit interview isn’t over when the employee walks out the door. It’s about taking that information and improving from it if you can.
The best thing you can do as a leader is to learn and develop. Exit interviews can be an important part of that if they’re done well. You should always want to do better for yourself and your company.
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!