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The Importance of Exit Interviews

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 21:02

By Leon Gettler

Exit interviews are an extremely important and useful tool for managers. Proper exit interviews are an excellent opportunity to learn about both the strengths and weaknesses of the manager and the organisation. They help managers understand how best to satisfy and retain employees. Unfortunately, managers at the time are so busy trying to find a replacement that doing the interviews themselves, or connecting with HR, is their last priority. How should exit interviews best be handled?

Specialists say it’s important for managers to make sure that staff understand you plan to ask questions to ultimately make improvements to the conditions within your workplace. Managers should explain the confidential nature of the exit interview process clearly. They should also make it clear that their feedback, however positive or negative, is valuable and highly appreciated. The employee should be given time to prepare and the interview should take place well before the employee’s last day. This provides an opportunity to reflect and review and potentially resolve issues, allowing both parties to separate on good terms. The employees should be treated with respect and dignity.

HR specialists say the exit interview should be a critical part of every workforce management strategy.

“Feedback, though illuminating, is not useful from just one exit interview. Only speaking with all departing employees will allow you to identify trends that point to chronic or systemic weaknesses in the company’s retention management. For this reason, it is important to design effective exit-interview protocols and administer them consistently.”

The National Federation of Independent Business in America has some standard questions that should be asked:
• How do you feel you were treated by your supervisor and your co-workers?
• How well do you believe your work was recognised and appreciated?
• Do you feel you were given adequate training and assistance in learning your job?
• Can you see opportunities for transfer or promotion within this business?
• How would you describe the morale of your fellow employees?
• How fairly was the workload distributed among you and your co-workers?
• What could be done to make this company a better place to work?

Ruth Mayhew at the Houston Chronicle says managers should not try to persuade the employee to provide a certain type of response.

“For open-ended questions, give the employee time to think about the response and record the response accurately,’’ Mayhew says. “Provide clarification whenever necessary. If the employee is leaving for personal or health-related reasons, do not pry. Stick to job-related questions about the employee’s experience with the company.

“Reiterate how the company uses information from exit interview questions when you ask about company leadership. Employees might hesitate to give less than favourable feedback about supervisors or managers for fear of retribution or concern that they won’t get a decent reference during a job search. Explain that information gathered during an exit interview is used in the most positive way to improve the company’s leadership.’’