Very good article. Questions are going pretty well with the exit interview intention.
In many companies they have the standard format with specific questions. The interviwee is also asked sign the form. Conducting interview with limitations should be avoided.
In our case attrition rate is high. We conduct exit interview but, we didnot get any imp. feedback to help us in retaining people. Everybody speaks good of the orgn. at the time of leaving.
We are thinking to seek feedback from the employee after few months of leaving us. He may be open to us.
The learning from your article will help us in revising the process.
As a matter of policy, most companies these days conduct exit interviews with departing employees. But do such interviews really serve a purpose--besides giving the exiting worker the opportunity to voice platitudes or grind an ax? Yes, says Grace Figueredo, a speaker at The Conference Board's Employee Retention & Loyalty Seminars.
Prior to her current position as director of workforce diversity at United Technologies Corp., Figueredo was HR director at Hamilton Sundstrand, a division of UTC, which specializes in global technology. Before that, she had worked in retail at Macy's New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, and CVS. Over the years, Figueredo estimates, she has conducted more than four hundred exit interviews. She spoke by phone with Across the Board associate editor Vadim Liberman about why each of them was important.
Many critics charge that exit interviews are a waste of time because they don't lead to any changes in an organization.
Not true. The Norma Rae in me believes that what workers say when they leave can make a difference, and I can give you an example to prove it. In a business unit where I formerly worked, someone in an exit interview said how the unit's workers weren't kept aware of goings-on in the unit or the company. As a result of his comments, we put together a newsflash process, where we would send internal e-mails notifying workers of upcoming events, employee arrivals and departures, new procedures, and those sorts of things.
That seems like an easy thing to implement. But what happens when a departing employee has negative things to say about his manager?
It depends on whether the person chooses to have the information remain confidential. Sometimes employees will say which parts specifically not to share, and other times they'll ask that I wait three months to report the comments. If the employee does not want his boss to know what he said, then I usually share the results with the overall leadership of a company in aggregate, without specifying who said what.
But how would that lead to any change specific to the manager being discussed?
Oh, you find ways. For example, I remember one incident involving a new manager who'd just taken over a group. The manager before him was very approachable and allowed flex-time--which, by the way, the company generally allowed. But the new one was the complete opposite. So during an exit interview, a worker complained that the new manager's attitude had made it impossible for her to work in the department. After this worker left, I asked a group of supervisors during a meeting about their thoughts on the policy of flextime. And I could see that this particular manager was uncomfortable talking about it. He later told me he didn't agree with the policy. But we continued talking, and eventually there was some compromise.
Also, even if a worker's comments remain confidential, they can still change things because he doesn't necessarily know what's going on out side his area of work. For example, senior management can be debating a policy that might be influenced by his comments.
When employees don't mind their managers knowing what they say, why not just have the manager take part in the interview?
Because there's a theory that says that people don't leave companies--they leave people. When you get down to it, people are leaving their managers, and I don't know that someone would be that candid with their boss sitting in the room.
How do managers generally react when you relay exiting employees' negative comments to them?
As you can imagine, sometimes not so good. I recall a senior vice president at one of our aerospace companies who asked me to personally conduct an exit interview with a woman whom he couldn't believe he was losing. During the interview, the worker shared some pretty intense stuff about how she didn't like the vice president's style of management, the lack of communication between them, and how she didn't like working in the environment he'd created. She also let me know, since this was her last day, that she would even be fine telling all this to her boss, but only if he wanted to talk about it. So I went up to his office and I simply handed him the report of my conversation with the outgoing employee. I sat there silently while he read. Then he simply lost it! Immediately, he started to refute things that were said. He just kept venting and justifying his conduct and policies. When he was done, I asked if he would like to share his comments with the employee. And he just said, "No, that's OK."
After a couple of weeks went by, he and I revisited our discussion, and we put together a strategy based on the comments of the worker who left, but in a way so that it didn't seem a reaction to her comments. As a result, he was able to improve communication between himself and his staff.
I also recall, when I worked in the retail industry, an exiting employee--who wanted his comments to remain confidential--who complained about a manager creating an environment not only toxic to employees but one that contributed to a lot of theft. Finally, we were able to pull him out.
Because of what the employee in the exit interview?
No. But we would've noticed his problems eventually, because other tenured employees who worked for him started leaving, too.
But why did you wait until those other workers left? Why didn't you do something right away after the first person complained?
Because, unfortunately, despite the theft issues, this manager was showing results.
So because he looked good on paper, he stayed. Isn't this exactly why there are maw skeptics when it comes to exit interviews?
I understand, but the fact is that we needed more information in order to get rid of him. It took four months from the time the first person complained to build a case against him. I realize that seemed like light years for those still working under him, but at least we were able to remedy the situation.
All this does no good for the departing employee. Why should someone care what happens after he leaves?
An employee might cam about the co-workers--the survivors--he's leaving behind. They will often wonder if he's said something to change things.
Have you ever asked employees why they waited until they were leaving to bring something up?
Yes, and sometimes they have a good reason. For example, I was at a forum where someone from another division of the company talked about a worker who told him he felt like he wasn't being utilized to his full potential. The worker's manager, who was also present, immediately became defensive, and afterward, the worker noticed a change in his behavior toward him in that he was being excluded from matters that concerned him. He brought this to the attention of the HR director, who then walked into the manager's office and brought it to his attention. Well, you can imagine what happened next! The individual felt he had no recourse but to leave the company. So you can see why some employees worry about coming forward with their issues.
I come from a retail background, and in retail, you must know your customer. Likewise, working in an HR department, I felt like my main priority was to know my internal customers. I had six hundred people for whom I was responsible at one company, and I wanted to know what each of them needed from me. The only way I knew how to do that was to sit down and have a conversation. Believe it or not, I set up six hundred one-on-ones, with every single individual. And there were people who said to me, "I've been at this company for more than thirty years, and no one has ever asked me what I thought."
Surely most HR people don't go that far. Are they just lazy?
No, they're not. But you have to realize that a lot of what we do is transactional in nature, like telling an employee how much vacation time he has left. We're reactive. It takes a lot of planning and discipline to be proactive.
By Grace Figueredo and Vadim Liberman
Grace Figueredo is director of workforce diversity at United Technologies Corp.
Vadim Liberman is associate editor of Across the Board.
It is seen in most of the organizations exit interviews are just part of the exit formalities. Not much is being done to use the feedback received during the exit interviews.
Are there any industry practices which any one of you have come across where in the data received are analysed. If so please share your experiences and if there is a particular menthod/ format to analyse the data.
This information will be very useful.
Thanks & regards,
Why is it important?
Exit interviews are seen as good employment practice, giving employees an opportunity for closure and employers a chance to gain valuable feedback on their organisation. If conducted properly, they represent one of the most direct routes for finding out employees' perceptions on everything, from your company culture to the staff canteen.
Information gleaned should form the basis for making improvements that help to attract and retain talent. The experience can also help strengthen the employer and company brand. "Remember that the individual should ideally become an ambassador for the company, and may potentially be a future customer, so do everything in your power to make the exit process a positive experience," says Jo Bond, managing director of career consultancy RightCoutts.
Where do I start?
As with any interview format, the key to success lies in the preparation. Make an assessment of the individual's achievements and what else they have brought to the company. Was their performance consistent across every aspect of the job? Did they frequently demonstrate initiative? And how did they get on with others?
Consult with their line manager and relevant colleagues to gain further insight, especially on why they might be leaving and how difficult they might be to replace. Compile a list of questions and areas for discussion and add to it any general points you want to raise about their perceptions of the organisation.
Ensure the employee is ready
Both sides will gain a good deal more from the exercise if the employee is also given time to prepare. Provide a form and a list of questions so they know what to expect and to help them formulate their thoughts in advance. There is an outside chance that some employees will use the interview as an opportunity to rail against managers, colleagues or the organisation. Providing a mechanism to focus their thoughts may help avoid this.
Do not disturb
Find a comfortable and quiet room. Get rid of all distractions and reduce the possibility of interruptions. Make sure you are both ready to listen and pay attention.
What skills do I need?
Employ similar skills and techniques as you would during any interview. Make the employee feel comfortable and relaxed with a few general questions about their role and responsibilities before moving on to more revealing ones, such as overall job satisfaction and their reasons for leaving. Also, be watchful for tell-tale body language and encourage them to substantiate claims with specific work situations so you can more easily put comments into context.
Some employees may be hesitant about expressing honest opinions of their immediate manager or aspects of the organisation, so ask ancillary questions. "Remember that the goal of an exit interview is to extract information," says Bond. "So it is in your interest to be objective, rather than emotional, and to ask open questions that encourage honest and considered responses, while avoiding leading and limiting questions."
Finding a replacement
It makes sense to use the interview to help you assess the kind of person that should replace the exiting employee. Ask them about the skills and characteristics they think are needed to do the job. How well does the job description match the role? What training is required? How experienced should the person be? And how well does the pay and benefits package fit the position?
"A successful exit interview will extract all the helpful messages that will assist the organisation in recruiting a replacement," Bond explains. "It can also ensure a culture of continuous improvement to achieve greater employee job satisfaction and to become an employer of choice."
Get them back
If the person leaving is a major loss to the company, it is likely you will want to leave the door open for them to return. Thank them for their co-operation in the interview and be positive about the feedback they provide. Ensure they know where to find out about future career opportunities - ie, the corporate website - and try to follow up after six months, once they've had some time or distance from the organisation.
If you only do five things...
Do your homework on the employee
Ensure interviews are carried out by experienced HR staff
Be objective and ask open questions
Express your appreciation
Leave the door open for them to return
Expert's view: Jo Bond on how to conduct a successful exit interview
Jo Bond is managing director of RightCoutts, a division of HR consultancy Right Management Consultants.
What common mistakes are made when conducting exit interviews?
HR departments should never delegate exit interviews to a junior, unprepared, or inexperienced member of the team. Think of the departing employee as a customer and treat them accordingly. It is imperative to ensure that both parties are well prepared and have realistic expectations of potential outcomes. Most importantly, the interviewer must always be impartial: resignation should not be seen as a personal affront and the exit interview is no time for bitter recriminations.
How should you best use the information gathered?
All feedback from exit interviews should be objectively reviewed and put into proper context. The best way to do this, and to make sure that any anomalies are accounted for, is to distil all the exit information you gather into an annual or bi-annual report. All interviews will send out messages that need to be addressed. A report will help you to prioritise those messages and take appropriate action in a timely manner.
What are your top tips for conducting an exit interview?
*Be objective. Exit interviews are only of use if you can look beyond your immediate emotional response and make practical and rational plans for the future.
*Be prepared. Nothing is more frustrating or futile than an interviewer who isn't ready, willing or able to conduct a productive
*Show your appreciation. If your organisation has benefited from the skills and dedication of the employee, the exit interview is the right time to express your appreciation for their contribution to your business.