February 12, 2019

Exit Interviews – a Waste of Time or a Valuable Tool?

Exit interviews are a valuable tool that can provide insight for recruitment and retention planning. Read on to find out how to get the most out of an exit interview.

Handing in your notice and seeking alternative employment is a big step. An exit interview gives employers the opportunity to find out why an employee has taken the decision to leave. It’s an opportunity to gain their opinion on pay, the employee benefits package (if you have one) and the working environment. You can also find out about factors such as their relationship with their line manager and their perspective on the organisation’s mission and values.

You can carry out an exit interview to find out:

  • Why an employee is leaving
  • What the departing employee thinks are the company’s problem areas
  • How the company can improve

Clearly this type of interview will only be productive with someone who is leaving on a voluntary basis. Ultimately, you are trying to find out why employees are leaving and what you can do to minimise staff turnover in the future.

Are Exit Interviews a waste of time?

Many companies don’t carry out exit interviews. If they do, they don’t look at and act on the information they are given. If this is the case, then yes, they probably are a waste of time.

However, if you don’t analyse the exit interview you’re potentially missing out on some valuable insights. Using exit interviews as tick-box exercises to say you’ve done it, or not doing an interview at all, can mean you have no idea why employees are leaving your company.

For example, you may have three employees that leave a department in quick succession. The reason for them leaving is they have a new supervisor who has had no training on how to supervise their team and treats everyone like children or has a bullying attitude etc.

If there is no structure to your exit interviews it could be very difficult to pick up on such trends. Also, if you don’t analyse the answers to questions posed, your company will never be able to identify problem areas.

Are Exit Interviews a valuable tool?

As demonstrated in the scenario above exit interviews are a very valuable tool. Without asking these questions and taking on board the answers given, it is very likely that within a short space of time, the whole department looked after by that supervisor will be leaving.

Employees who are leaving are likely to be more honest in their answers than employees who are remaining at your company. Essentially, they have nothing to lose by telling the truth.  They will give you an insight into general employee satisfaction – good or bad.

In addition, when looking for their new job, they have probably been checking out competitors and can provide you with the benefits or perks that they are offering. This information alone is extremely valuable in terms of whether your positions are in line with or below the average offerings.

The correct questions can be invaluable in finding out who are your ‘good’ managers and, more importantly, who are the ‘bad’ managers.

How do I get the most out of an Exit Interview?

  • It should be carried out by someone who is impartial, such as the head of the department or your HR manager, rather than their direct supervisor
  • It should be carried out with all levels of employee, although an employee can decline if they wish
  • Interviews should be open and honest and never assume you know why the employee is leaving
  • Ask for ideas on how the company can improve, such as ‘if you could add anything to the benefits package, what would it be?
  • Collate and share the information with your Senior Management Team

Ideally have your set of questions prepared beforehand. Moorepay has an Exit Interview Questionnaire available on the HR Hub within the People Management Pack. It’s also available from the Policy Team – policy.team@moorepay.co.uk

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About the author

Elaine Pritchard

Elaine has a wealth of knowledge in producing contracts, training materials and other documentation as well as training other consultants. She piloted a scheme whereby she went on-site to act as a client’s HR Manager two days per week, whilst the post-holder was on maternity leave. Elaine also previously ran her own retail business for seven years, employing four people. Elaine is a field based consultant for Moorepay and provides on-site HR and Employment Law advice, consultancy and training services to our clients.