Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Exit Interviews - A Missed Opportunity

A colleague of of mine wrote this about Exit Interviews.  ...a very good reminder for us all.

Exit Interviews- A Missed Opportunity
By: Sarah Hall

My first exposure to the idea of an exit interview was in a college lecture about underutilized evaluation tools. My grad school professor painted the picture of a generic survey completed and stashed away into a termination file, never to be looked at again. The protocol of a human resources generalist awkwardly asking an often disgruntled employee a series of questions about how they feel about the organization, and if they would recommend a friend to work there has caused us to undervalue the concept of the exit interview for too long. In truth, the exit interview is a gem of a tool that, if utilized correctly can serve as a powerful engagement resource.

It’s the question that counts
If your exit interview form is an outdated photocopy of generic questions with an accompanying 5-point Likert scale, throw it out. Exit interview questions should provide insight into the true reasons employees want to leave your organization. Starting a new job is often a painful process.  New employees must adjust to a new routine, team members and processes. Additionally, leaving a job to start a new one is a gamble. There is no way to guarantee that what someone is walking into is better than what they left…yet people choose the difficult unknown path over their current jobs every day. There is a reason for this, and there is incredible value in finding out why. When you have the opportunity to ask someone why he or she chose the unknown over your organization, take it! Is it about leadership, money, benefits or culture? You won’t know until you ask. A few of my favorite go-to exit interview questions are:
·      Do you feel as though you were able to build strong relationships with co-workers? 
·      Did your manager set you up to succeed?
·      Were you given an accurate preview of what the job would look like during the interview process?
·      Was your decision to leave caused by a single event?
·      Did you receive timely and appropriate feedback about your performance?

Rather than ask a ton of questions, try to cover the basics and dig in as deep as you can. For example, the information you gather by asking: Did you receive timely and appropriate feedback about your performance? May provide insight into the performance review process, organizational leadership or any one specific manager. The interview process should resemble a conversation, and the more relaxed and engaging you are, the more valuable information you will be able to collect from fewer questions.  

Good information gone to waste
It’s unfortunate that often times the completed exit interview is reviewed by one person and stashed away into an employee termination file. All of that glorious insight into your organization is sitting untouched in a dark cabinet. Take every opportunity to share the findings from an exit interview with your leadership team. If you have significant turnover, look for patterns. You can only drive meaningful and effective change if you have a grasp on what needs to be changed, and why.

Sharing exit feedback is not enough to reap the full benefit of their value. Save interview findings for a specified time period and use that feedback as you formulate your strategic plan for the next year. Or better yet, commit to a regular exit analysis with your senior leadership team on a regular basis. What finer guidance than the honest, candid feedback from people who chose leave your organization? Exit feedback is critical as you think about leadership development, engagement and determining a compensation strategy.

Turn the tables
I never understood why we often wait until employees are fed up enough to leave the organization to ask about how things are going. Consider talking to employees from a different perspective and facilitate a STAY interview. Why do you choose to stay with our organization? What are we doing well? What can we improve? The same caliber of valuable information is collected in a stay interview- and we don’t have to backfill a position!

Exit interviews provide a wealth of insight into what is going on in your organization. Consider implementing a robust strategy for collecting information related to why people leave (or stay with) your organization, and watch how quickly you will be able to align your exit process with the strategic goals of your organization!

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