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Lead Your Team Managing

Making Employee Exit Interviews a Win-Win Situation

Making Employee Exit Interviews a Win-Win Situation . / Credit: Man walking out of door image via Shutterstock

Employee turnover is bad news for the bottom line because of lost productivity and recruitment costs. But there are ways a company can use employee resignations and firings as an opportunity to grow, experts say. Here are five things you need to keep in mind.

Companies don't want their employees to leave. But if they must go, it should be on good terms if at all possible. Better employee exits set the stage for continued relationships and create growth opportunities for both employee and employer, according to a new paper from 4imprint, a provider of promotional items for businesses.

There are some critics who argue that exit interviews are a waste of time for employers, and a risk to be avoided at all costs by employees. Exit interviews scheduled too close to the last day may leave departing employees with unexamined emotions that transform the exit interview process into a venting session. Or, departing employees may be less than candid in fear of burning bridges.

[Surprising Job Interview Questions That Are Against the Law]

Despite potential drawbacks, the exit interview remains one of the best ways to mine information from departing and former employees. Collecting information about employee experiences can be critical to an organization’s ongoing success.

When done well (and in combination with corporate management practices that enhance employee satisfaction and productivity), exit processes can contribute to an overall corporate culture of positive regard between employer and employees.

How you go about crafting an exit interview experience depends on the nature and size of your company, 4imprint says. But there are five key things you should consider when putting an exit interview process in place.

1: Gather information before or after departure? Exit interviews may take place at some point before the employee’s departure, or at some point several weeks or months after. Holding exit interviews after departure create time and distance from the company that gives the former employee breathing room to process the experience critically and in a more dispassionate light. Proponents of conducting exit interviews before departure cite maximizing the potential for increased participation rates, and, as well, see the exit interview as an opportunity to help employees leave on a positive note. 

2:  Face-to-face, questionnaires, or third party? Some HR managers argue that the only way to get honest feedback is through paper or online questionnaires or third-party interviews. They believe that the greater the perception of anonymity on the part of the interviewee, the more genuine the responses. The biggest drawback to hiring a third party is cost.

3:  Survey, interview, or survey and interview? Some companies use paper or electronic survey instruments to collect exit feedback. Others use face to-face interviews, conducted by a member of the HR staff. Some HR managers recommend a two-tiered process, beginning with the administration of a survey, and then, using information from that survey, conducting an interview targeted to the employee’s specific responses.

 4:  Who gets interviewed? Some HR managers advocate interviewing everyone, including employees who are terminated or downsized. These interviews must be conducted with a great deal of skill and tact, as well as empathy. After all, there may be internal factors resulting in the failure of an employee, and, regardless of the impetus for an employee’s departure, one of the goals of the exit interview is to help employer and employee part on good terms. Others argue that only those employees who are leaving voluntarily should be interviewed. Those being forced out bring too much potential baggage to the process.  

 5: Will you incorporate technology? HR managers must keep their work force in mind, especially when considering using post-departure surveys. Some companies want the benefits of automated data reporting, but some employees are not particularly Web-savvy. The industry standard for rate of return on paper surveys is 25-35 percent, while technology-based participation rates for exit interviews come in at around 65 percent, 4imprint said.

The best employee exits are those that expand company networks and create future growth opportunities for both parties, says 4imprint. An employee who felt satisfied and supported at work will become an ambassador for your organization. This person may send future employees, or even clients, your way. Past employees can also be a link to future business partnerships.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith
Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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