Exit interviews: a retention tool

The perception of exit interviews is that they are a great opportunity for employees who left the company to dish and complain about their ex-employer. It is the time for the employee to give one-way feedback about their work experience.

The perception is right. Having had the opportunity to work with organisations and conduct exit interviews, the feedback is close to always being about their manager or the leadership team, who would’ve lacked all the necessary skills to manage, communicate and engage the team.

Even though exit interviews are mostly conducted when there is a high staff turnover rate, it is always important to understand why your talent is leaving, even if in small numbers and at slow rates. This is when exit interviews become an important tool for the organisation. And it should not be about purely collecting data but should be the time for feedback discussion. This is one of the best ways of analyzing such data. And, what goes beyond this, is sharing such information to the leadership team. It is only them who can follow up the feedback with action.

There are many ways of ensuring that this tool is a success to the organisation, for example, it can help you gain insight into the leadership style being used by the management team, what the perceptions of the company are, what competition (or the market) is offering better than you (if the employee is leaving for another opportunity), what other areas of HR the organisation should focus on and ultimately, if the tool is used as a feedback discussion, possibly gather innovative ideas on how to improve.

Exit interviews, also nowadays being referred to as Retention Interviews, should start off by both parties focusing on the shared goals – an opportunity for the employee to share their experience and contributions to the company and an opportunity for the employer to receive valuable insight on how to retain your current employees. The design and sequence of what is asked during the exit interview is crucial and should be well-thought and agreed to by all management.

Allow exit interviews to close chapters but not burn bridges – it should be a positive end and experience for both employer and employee.


About the author

Maria Zahra is Managing Director of SurgeAdvisory. She has over fifteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.