The exit interview: a thankless task that managers and HR directors have to do when an employee leaves the company. It’s a pointless conversation with someone you’ll probably never see again – an old-fashioned business practice that couldn’t possibly be worthwhile anymore…
Or is it?
Admittedly, many people throughout the business world have this negative perspective on exit interviews. But these final conversations with former employees can yield tremendous insights about your company and the ways you can make it better.
How can you make the most of exit interviews in your organization? Simply set a goal for your interview, talk with the employee at the right time, and use the information you get to your advantage.
Goals of Exit Interviews
Because your interviewee is leaving the company, they’ll likely be more forthright about strengths and weaknesses they see within their department – or, in some cases, with the entire company. Therefore, an exit interview is the perfect time to get an “outsider’s” opinion on your business.
Typically, an exit interview has three primary goals:
- Get to know what the employee thinks about their job responsibilities and work environment
- Learn more about company leadership
- Get input on improving the organization
Decide which of these goals is most important for your business purposes, and make sure you ask questions that will start conversation in service of this goal.
How to Time Your Exit Interviews
Most exit interviews last between one hour to 90 minutes, depending on the employee’s position and how much they have to say. Prepare several specific questions (including follow-ups) so you can direct the conversation toward your interview goals – but know that targeted questions are only half the battle. You should also make sure to time your exit interview perfectly.
There are two schools of thought about when to conduct your exit interview. The first suggests interviewing leaving employees halfway through their “exit period” – for example, one week after receiving their two-week’s notice. This is a sweet spot when the employee isn’t busy breaking the news to others or tying up final projects, but they haven’t “checked out” mentally.
The second school suggests waiting until the employee has left for one month. This allows them more time to disconnect from the working environment, giving them clearer insight into the positive and negative aspects of your organization. In this case, even a casual phone interview can deliver great insights.
Using Exit Interviews to Improve Your Business
Once you’ve conducted your exit interview and learned everything you can from your former employee, what do you do with the information they’ve given you? In most cases, the best thing to do is analyze the feedback and implement a plan for improvement.
Look for trends across exiting employees in various departments. Consider changing your compliance training, hiring practices, or corporate culture to fix weak spots in your organization. In this way, you can guarantee that your company is always getting better with each interview.
Capture Key Insights
If you feel too pressed for time to conduct exit interviews, third-party vendors are available to make this process simple and seamless. Often, departing employees feel more comfortable being forthright about their experiences and their opinions when they’re speaking with someone outside of the organization they are leaving. Third-party interviews can provide actionable insights that enable you to improve employee engagement and retention. Don’t lose out on valuable input and ideas; use exit interviews to your organization’s benefit.
Giovanni Gallo is the Co-CEO of ComplianceLine, where his team strives to make the world a better workplace with compliance hotline services, sanction and license monitoring, and workforce eLearning software and services.
Growing up as the son of a Cuban refugee in an entrepreneurial family taught Gio how servanthood and deep care for employees can make a thriving business a platform for positive change in the world. He built on that through experience with startups and multinational organizations so ComplianceLine’s solutions can empower caring leaders to build strong cultures for the betterment of every employee and their community.
When he’s not working, Gio’s wrangling his two young kids, riding his motorcycle, and supporting education, families, and the homeless in the Charlotte community.