There is no better time to gather feedback on company culture, processes and leadership than when an employee is ready to leave the company. It’s likely the only time you’ll get complete honesty, or as close to it as possible, because the employee is not worried about the consequences of their openness.
Besides, what kind of value would you derive from learning things about your organisation that no one but your staff members can provide, but under normal circumstances wouldn’t dare to?
Although employees may lose most of their fear of negative consequences once they’ve handed in their resignation, it doesn’t mean they will be completely honest with you - and why should they?
Which is why you need an exit interview process, in order to maximise the feedback you’ll get. Here’s how exit interviews should be conducted to extract the most valuable information possible.
Timing is Everything
Forget asking for employee feedback if they still have a month of service left; you won’t get much from them then. Rather, plan the exit interview a few days before they’re set to leave.
That way, they know that if there are negative results from what they’ve disclosed, they only have to live with it for a few days. Where possible, meet face-to-face or via video conference.
Most people are willing to exchange their personal opinions and feedback when they know that something will be done with what they tell you. What you need to be careful of is fear. They may have made friends at work, and therefore may fear the consequences of their disclosures to you.
It’s important that the person conducting the interview is trustworthy, and trusted by employees. Otherwise, you’ll get nothing unless they are angry with the company (then it’s likely they’ll have no issue venting their frustration).
All in all, you need to make sure the employee feels a sense of safety about the exit interview and the feedback they give.
Honour employees by ensuring they know how much the company appreciates their feedback, and what you plan to do with it.
Remember that if your organisation has a culture (good or bad) around exit interviews, it will impact what feedback you receive. For example, if other people experienced negative ramifications from the things they disclosed, other staff will be reluctant to share. In this case, repair work will need to take place before you host further exit interviews.
To get as much value-add information as possible, consider ways in which to make the employee feel happy to give you the information you are looking for. Try a small gift of thanks, and explain how the exit interview helps the company improve, and so on.
Exit Interview Script Guide
Here’s a guideline of what to say when opening the interview, to lay a foundation of trust and willingness to share:
Thank you for meeting with me. The company realises that you are under no obligation to disclose any details whatsoever, and that’s why I am thankful that you have agreed to speak with me.
We conduct these interviews so that we can uncover honest feedback and suggestions from staff who are leaving. Exit interviews are the best way we can get information which is essential to the company in order to make continual improvements, so that our business and conditions for our staff can continually grow.
I am going to ask you some questions. You don’t have to answer the ones you don’t want to.
Again, thank you for being here.
This guide should act as a way to:
- Make the employee feel relaxed, and their feedback valuable
- Encourage people to open up
- Ensure the person feels they can trust the interviewer
- Give them an idea of what to expect
Ask the Right Questions
Although the interview shouldn’t be scripted, there are some questions that should be asked, such as:
- Why did you resign?
- What would you do to improve the situation that is causing you to leave?
- What do you feel the company is doing right?
- What do you think the company may be doing wrong?
- How could conditions for staff be improved?
- How do other employees feel about the situation?
- How do other employees feel about the company in general?
- Please describe your general feelings about having worked here.
- What three things were the best about working here?
- If you could change three things in the company, what would they be?
- Please describe the best things about working for your boss?
- If you were the CEO, what would you do differently?
- What advice do you have for the next person in your position?