All employment relationships end eventually. Some relationships end sooner than others, and some later. Moreover, they don’t always end for negative reasons. Often, work relationships end on good terms, like a promotion or a change in career paths. Whatever the reason that employment relationships end, as the employer, you have an opportunity to learn from it. We call this opportunity the exit interview.
It’s not enough to simply conduct the exit interview, though. To take full advantage of it, come prepared with good questions and an openness to listen and request helpful follow-up information. Why? Employee feedback can guide your company’s tactics toward change and business optimization. If done right, your departing employees can provide you with:
- Valuable insight into potential problems with your company’s operations
- Confirmation for the things your company is doing right
- Knowledge gained during their tenure to pass on to the next employee and team
Read next: “A Practical Guide to Employee Offboarding”
According to Harvard Business Review, “The greater goal for any company is to retain valued employees.” So why exactly do you want to retain valued employees?
Firstly, they’re more productive and efficient. But what happens if, or when, you lose your most valued performers? You won’t simply lose productivity and efficiency. The greater risk is losing a competitive advantage in your industry.
If you want your company to hold an advantage over its competitors, you’ll want to improve retention. Research shows that high turnover can predict low performance, according to HBR. That statistic means that you can predictably outperform the competition if you can maintain a lower turnover rate. So how do you lower your turnover rate?
Exit interviews are moments to get honest feedback. They can help you, and your company, identify any potential problems with your company’s operations and systems. And these interviews are especially crucial if you need to find out why talent is leaving your company in increasing numbers.
Research shows that 70% of job candidates look to company reviews before they make career decisions. The internet isn’t the only way talent could research your company. They can also learn what your organization is like from your current employees.
Employees notice how the offboarding process is handled—whether they’re the ones exiting or not—and word-of-mouth travels. If done poorly, the process can color your employees’ views of the organization and affect your company culture. It’s important to have an offboarding process that’s empathetic and people-centric. If a team member is considered a high-potential or star employee, they could wield a degree of influence over possible future candidates. Don’t forget that current and former employees can act as valuable ambassadors.
Make regular knowledge transfer, such as weekly one-on-one’s and skip-level meetings, a part of your employees’ ongoing responsibilities. If you neglect these conversations, the exit interview may be the first time you catch that valuable information; by then, it may be too late to remedy it.
While you could interview everyone who leaves your company, HBR suggests that “the organizations with the most-progressive programs prioritized high potentials and stars over others. [And] high potentials are generally knowledgeable about the company and likely to know more about competitors because they are often recruitment targets.”
Whenever a team member leaves your organization, it creates the possibility of unfinished business or a lack of closure, opening dangerous security risks and potential data leaks. A good offboarding process ensures there are no loose ends or open access when an employee exits. It helps prevent data loss and closes opportunities for security breaches.
Exit interview questions boil down to learning three things:
- What motivated your employee’s departure
- What your employee experienced at your company
- What your employee’s perception is of your company
Glassdoor, Inc. suggests asking “13 Must-Ask Exit Interview Questions” to understand your employee’s departure. Here are some of their questions organized by question type:
- Why did you begin looking for a new job?
- What ultimately led you to accept the new position?
- Would you consider coming back to work here in the future? In what area or function? What would need to change?
- Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well?
- Did you have clear goals and objectives?
- Did you receive constructive feedback to help you improve your performance?
- How would you describe the culture of our company or work environment?
- What could we have done for you to remain employed here?
- If you could change anything about your job or the company, what would you change?
First, when you conduct exit interviews, make them positive experiences. The energy you would bring to an onboarding team member should be the same energy you should bring to an offboarding team member. For example, you’ll want to acknowledge their contributions and talk about their time with the company in a positive manner. Whatever the reasons for employment termination, offboarding should leave you and the exiting employee feeling good.
Second, standardize your open-ended questions for all exiting team members. Compiling a set of standard questions will help an interviewer remember and ask all essential questions. Human Resources might not be the only staff to interview the outgoing team member, and standardizing the questions into a template will help anyone ask the right questions if the questions are included in the offboarding process workflow. If you can, conduct a face-to-face interview. The interview can take place in-person or on a video call.
Third, use your employee’s feedback to implement change and optimize your company. If your employee’s job has evolved, update their job description. If you find potential problems in your company’s operations or management, conduct an investigation and make improvements as needed. If knowledge needs transferring, record the knowledge and pass it on to a replacement and the team.
Finally, stay in communication. If the separation is on friendly terms, then encourage your outgoing employee to keep in touch. The single best way to show your employees your appreciation is to stay in touch and support them when they’re no longer your employees.
Some would say the best time to conduct an employee exit interview is after an announcement is made and before an employee departs. The trick is to find the sweet spot after emotions have dissipated and before the team member has disengaged. HBR also shares, “Another effective approach is to wait until after the employee has left the company.” According to a leader in the auto industry, “We typically do the exit interview about a month later, and it’s much more relaxed.”
It might take some practice to find the best type of exit interview for your organization. But conducting one is better than not conducting one.
Whenever you choose to conduct the exit interview, you’ll want it to occur as part of your offboarding process. Moreover, it would also be ideal if you managed the offboarding process using workflows.
Blissfully can help make your organization a better place to work while protecting your valuable assets and enabling your long-term success. With Employee Workflows, Blissfully can help your company navigate and automate your onboarding and offboarding processes.
While it can’t conduct an exit interview on your behalf, it can automatically initiate the offboarding process, including disconnecting employees from your SaaS stack. It can also trigger stakeholders’ notifications to complete open tasks or set regular reminders to ensure everything gets done. The Blissfully Platform can also:
- Automate offboarding tasks like email backup and archive, account deprovisioning, setting up email forwards, and more.
- Complete a smart checklist of offboarding tasks from removing licenses to migrating billing ownerships.
- Create distinct and custom workflows for each department, including HR departments.
- Collect key information from employees with custom surveys.
To learn more about how Blissfully can help you manage your employee workflows, request a demo.
Read next: “A Practical Guide to Employee Onboarding”