Exit interview

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An exit interview is a survey conducted with an individual who is separating from an organization or relationship. Most commonly, this occurs between an employee and an organization, a student and an educational institution, or a member and an association. An organization can use the information gained from an exit interview to assess what should be improved, changed, or remain intact. More so, an organization can use the results from exit interviews to reduce employee, student, or member turnover and increase productivity and engagement, thus reducing the high costs associated with turnover. Some examples of the value of conducting exit interviews include shortening the recruiting and hiring process, reducing absenteeism, improving innovation, sustaining performance, and reducing possible litigation if issues mentioned in the exit interview are addressed. It is important for each organization to customize its own exit interview in order to maintain the highest levels of survey validity and reliability.

The exit interview fits into the separation stage of the employee life cycle (ELC). This stage, the last one of the ELC, spans from the moment an employee becomes disengaged until his or her departure from the organization. This is the key time that an exit interview should be administered because the employee’s feelings regarding his or her departure are fresh in mind. An off-boarding process allows both the employer and employee to properly close the existing relationship so that company materials are collected, administrative forms are completed, knowledge base and projects are transferred or documented, feedback and insights are gathered through exit interviews, and any loose ends are resolved.

In business[edit]

Exit interviews in business are focused on employees that are leaving a company or when employees have completed a significant project. The purpose of this exit interview is to glean feedback from employees in order to improve aspects of the organization, better retain employees, and reduce turnover. During this interview employees will be asked why they are leaving, what specifically influenced their decision to leave, whether or not they are going to another company and what that company they are going to offers that their current company does not. Businesses can use this information to better align their HR strategy with what employees look for in an organization and enact programs and practices that will influence top talent to stay at the organization.

In the past, exit interview data was being collected by the organization but not much was being done in terms of interpreting the data and making it actionable. Today there are metrics, analytics, benchmarks, and best practices that help organizations make sense of and use the data towards proactive organizational retention programs. Recently an array of exit interview software has been developed and popularized. These programs facilitate and streamline the employee separation process, allow surveys to be completed via the web, make separation and retention trends easy to identify, and amass actionable data which can increase organizational effectiveness and productivity. Additionally, some of these programs make it possible to quantify data gleaned from the surveys to more accurately understand why employees are leaving the organization.

Common exit interview questions[edit]

Common questions include reasons for leaving, job satisfaction, frustrations, and feedback concerning company policies or procedures. Questions may relate to the work environment, supervisors, compensation, the work itself, and the company culture.

Examples:

  • "What are your main reasons for leaving?"
  • "What did you like most/least about the organization?"
  • "What, if improved, would have caused you to stay at the organization?"
  • "Would you recommend the organization to others as a good place to work/study/join?"

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Participation rates[edit]

Exit interview participation rates vary depending on the method used to conduct the exit interviews. Paper-and-pencil exit interviews provide the lowest participation rates at approximately 30 - 35%. The highest participation rates are achieved using online exit interviews. The average participation rates for organizations using online exit interviews is 65%. [2]

In education[edit]

Exit interviews in education are conducted with students who have graduated from an educational institution. These interviews are meant to gather information about students’ experience while attending that institution, what they benefited from, what was missing, and what could be improved to enhance the experience of the next generation of students who attend that institution. This type of interview can also point to areas in which the institution should invest more or less resources to enhance a student’s learning and development experience.

Associations[edit]

Exit interviews in associations are administered to members who decide to end membership with an association. These interviews provide feedback to an association regarding what caused the member to leave, what can be improved, and how resources can better be allocated.[citation needed]

Other types[edit]

During elections, pollsters may conduct random exit polls.

Employee turnover[edit]

Employee turnover is the predominant component of exit interview as it transpires remarkable depletion in the number of outgoing talent resources.

There are two variables “Opportunity” and “Job satisfaction” that are the characteristic traits of employee turnover.

Job satisfaction is the "retaining factor" signifying contentment of employees with their current employer. On the other hand, “Opportunity” is the "pulling-out factor" signifying a leaving employee’s preference over external opportunity than continuing employment with their current employer. This external opportunity may be in the form of good job opportunity for a departing employee.

Employee turnover comprises both avoidable and unavoidable separations. The previous factors (avoidable separations) are controllable on certain points such as salary growth assurance, flexible job profiles and working conditions. The latter (unavoidable separations) are non-persuasive or uncontrollable as they are irrevocably decided upon by the leaving employees or their employer/s. These separations include factors like employee’s resignation, or employer-initiated lay off or termination.

Unavoidable separation (from the side of departing employee) doesn't merit persuasion or convincing reasoning as it is irrevocably decided because of external factors, too tempting to be ignored or internal factors, too intolerable to be continued with. No doubt that most of the exit interviews are preoccupied with handling avoidable separations as they can be persuaded by the management.

The status-quo of employee turnover rewards some benefits as well: reduces salary costs, facilitates upward mobility, staffing flexibility is encouraged and organizational restructuring is facilitated due to workforce substitution. However, these benefits are comparatively less overt in comparison to the negative influences manifested by exceeding employee turnover rate.

The fiscal impact in event of employee turnover is affected badly as an organization incurs heavy costs on advertising, recruitment and training of new employees aside from investing huge on reinforcing workforce ecosystem through workforce substitution. Therefore, employee turnover casts full significance of the necessity to conduct an exit interview. It helps an organization prevaricate such a budget-jeopardizing workforce turnover and long-term preservation of talent resources and enhanced workforce productivity [3]

Factors contributing to an improved understanding of employee turnover are studied exhaustively during initialization of formal exit interview program. Employers come to an understanding of taking corrective measures leading to the manifestation of reduced employee turnover rate in future.

Methods for conducting exit interviews[edit]

Voice - In-Person or Telephone

Pros:

Capture complex ideas through follow-up questioning and tone indications
Probe, clarify and ask for examples
Structured question order
Administered by a professional

Cons

Possible interviewer bias (especially if internal)
Possible interviewee bias (especially if internal)
Most expensive option – interviewer time
Difficult for employee to verbalize constructive critique, particularly face-to-face
Low participation for telephone exit interviews due to caller ID and voice mail
Information must be entered into tracking system for trending

A voice interview can be conducted by an internal agent (i.e. an HR department) or an external agent (i.e. HR exit interview consulting firm).

Paper

Pros

Allows convenience for those who do not have easy access to the internet
Ensures total anonymity

Cons

Takes longer to receive feedback
Concern for literacy of respondent
Information must be entered into tracking system for trending
Web - Exit Interview Management Systems

Pros

High reliability, flexibility and privacy, as it is completed by the respondent
Exit interview is easily accessible at the convenience of the respondent
Feedback is received quickly
Low administration cost
Data automatically tracked
Reporting information accessible in real time

Cons

Not accessible to those who do not have internet
Concern for literacy of respondent
Concern for technical knowledge of respondent
IVR (teleprompt)

Pros

Accessible by average phone

Cons

Has fallen out of favor due to the cost effectiveness of web based options that yield data at similar or higher quality
Difficult to get rich data
Difficult to adjust or change

References[edit]