With the average tenure in a job of about 3-4 years (HILDA Survey, Department of Employment), people may work in more than a dozen different organisations over their lifetime. From an employer’s perspective, this means that employees are entering and exiting organisations at an almost constant rate. Aside from taking with them their skills and knowledge, leaving employees can also be a valuable source of information for the organisation. By trying to understand why employees leave and their experience working in the organisation, employers can better manage their retention strategies, increase employee engagement and productivity, and also ensure a smooth and amicable parting.
Exit interviews provide a structured framework for understanding the motivations and drivers that contribute to an individual exiting an organisation. Done well, organisations can develop targeted talent management strategies for different types of employee groups, particularly around retaining high performing employees.
Exit interview questions may include the following topics:
- Reasons for leaving
- The role
- Manager and colleagues
- The organisation
- Remuneration and benefits
- Training and Development
- Other organisational policies and procedures
- Their ideas for improving the organisation
However, as exiting an organisation isn’t always straightforward, so exit interviews should also be thoughtfully managed to ensure that their potential as a valuable data gathering tool is realised. One of the considerations may be how they are conducted. Most organisations opt for HR to handle the process, others use direct managers or 2nd line managers, or outsource to external consultants.
HBR reported that exit interviews conducted with 2nd or 3rd line managers are most likely lead to action. Additionally, some organisation also conduct a 2nd exit interview, with an external consultant, who are more likely to have expertise in exit interviewing, be free of bias, and therefore more likely to produce reliable data. Exit interviews in the form of a questionnaire can additionally provide valuable metrics and allow organisations to identify trends.
Exit interviews are of course most useful if organisations act on the information they gather. The information that leaving employees share could be the wake-up call that leaders in the organisation need to make the necessary changes and engage with existing employees.