Employee Life Cycle: The Exit

The last and arguably the most valuable leg of the employee experience is the exit.  

High retention and low turnover are the goals for every company. Exit interviews are the most useful tool to provide valuable insight into underlying issues management may not see day to day. If people are leaving your company, figuring out why is crucial and necessary.  

According to the “Harvard Business Review”, exit interviews should focus on six goals: 

  1. Uncover issues relating to HR – Of course, the go-to here is related to salary and compensation. There are several other HR related issues that can be discovered during the exit interview such as training, succession, and development.
  2. Understand employees’ perceptions of the work itself – How did the employee view the job? Thoughts on working conditions, culture, and coworkers can help improve departments in efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity.
  3. Gain insight into managers’ leadership styles and effectiveness – Let’s face it, as managers, you do not always know how your manager is showing up to their employees. Here, companies can recognize the good from the bad, and how it is showing up for the employees.
  4. Learn about HR benchmarks at competing companies – How can you continue to be competitive in your market if you are not sure what your competitors are offering? Find out about benefits, salary, paid time off, and other benefits. 
  5. Foster innovation by soliciting ideas for improving – Asking questions on how to improve will never hurt! Remember, the lowest person could have the greatest idea! During an exit interview, ask the employee if they noticed anything they would improve upon or make better.
  6. Create lifelong advocates for the company – Everyone is still a client. How you treat others on the way out will be reflective to potential customers or employees. As the saying goes, don’t burn bridges holds true. 

Exit interviews should be a strategic growth opportunity of any organization. With goals set in place, companies need to decide how to and who will conduct the interviews. Companies must be sensitive to the exiting employee. The reasons for their departure may be related to their direct supervisor. Giving an option of interviewers to the employee will help gain truthful and forthcoming results. If your company does not have a Human Resources department, the interviewer should be a second line manager.  

Many companies do not perform exit interviews, and the companies that do exit interviews do nothing with the information learned. WHY?  

One reason is that exit interviews are believed to fail at producing any useful results. Results will only be based on the data received. If any employee is not forthcoming and candid in answers, there will be very little information gained. There could be many reasons an employee is not accommodating during the exit interview such as: lack of time, ready to move on, does not want to sound negative, etc. But allowing the employee a choice of interviewer will allow for more trust and openness.  

Another reason companies choose not to hold exit interviews is how to do it and no direction as to what is next. There are some companies who are just down right scared as to what they may hear in an exit interview. And why, you ask? At that point, companies are responsible for the information gathered and compelled to act. Overall, companies are more focused on profit and little on employee well-being. It is more difficult for managers to turn focus on what is perceived as people issues rather than operational issues. Information learned during an exit interview must be shared whether it is with a management group or human resources with action plans created. The actions plans must include what processes need to be improved, changed, and created. The easiest action plan, and most overlooked, is to begin having meaningful conversations today with current employees before they leave. 

Company values must be evident during the exit interview. It will reinforce the company commitment to the exiting employee. All exit interviews should focus on the positive results created over the negative. Companies will never be able to measure the retention resulted from changes discovered in an exit interview. But companies will be able to see the culture and morale lifted and turnover will decrease. 

In closing this series of the employee experience, I cannot stress this enough…the employee experience must be a strategic part of your business planning at all levels! YOUR most valuable asset is human capital…your employee.  

Marcie Richardson

With over 20 years of HR experience, Marcie understands the struggles companies face in compliance regulation and policy structure. She recognizes that effective company culture and policies start with how we treat employees. As the Director of Human Resources for Guarantee Restoration Services in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she values the need for a strong company culture to ensure operational continuity. Marcie obtained her IICRC in WRT and ASD because she believes to truly understand the needs of each employee, you need to understand their job. Marcie also holds a Louisiana Department of Insurance License in Health, Life & Accident.


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