In today's proverbial work economy, people are the most important asset for any organization. In order to succeed in todays’ dog eat dog environment, its quintessential for the organizations to understand why their people choose to stay or decide to leave. Yet, most companies conduct their exit interviews as a tick box exercise.
An exit interview, if designed and administered strategically, can prove to be a very powerful tool. They may not be able to help so much in terms of changing the mind of someone who has already decided to leave but may aid in understanding the reason why people choose to leave and accordingly take necessary corrective or preventive actions.
A study conducted by HBR in 2012 by surveying 188 executives and 32 senior leaders from 210 organizations, spanning across 33 industries who were responsible for leading the exit interview exercise at their organizations, revealed some startling findings. 70.9% people said that their HR departments alone were responsible for handling exit interviews, 19 % said that the direct supervisors did it, 8.9 % delegated it to the managers of the direct supervisors and 1% hired external consultants to do the job. This only means that even though we know that exit interviews are important, we don’t use them to their fullest potential.
What can we do to make exit interviews count?
- Design the questionnaire strategically – Most employees will only start talking when they are asked the right questions. Asking them vague and unstructured questions will not lead to any sort of deep dive into their actual reasons for leaving. Most employees wouldn’t want to share their true feelings out of the fear of burning bridges and losing the potential references for future jobs.
- Who conducts the interview –The interview needs to be conducted by someone who is of consequence to the employees’ career. In most companies, these interviews are conducted by HR who has little or next to no influence on the employees’ career. The person conducting the interview should also be trained to do so.
- Timing – The organizations need to decide when they want to conduct the interview. If you conduct it right after the resignation mail comes in, the responses maybe lopsided, as the employees would still be riding the emotional wave that made them resign in the first place. If you conduct it just before he/she leaves, it may be too late as the person may already be disengaged. The notice period duration of the organization will be at the root in deciding the right time for the interview.
- What do you do with the data? According to a study conducted by KPMG, a survey of 375 global executives revealed that 20% senior executives think that their HR strategy doesn’t include enough hard data such as exit interview analysis. You conduct the exit interview for everyone – what next? The imperative portion starts after that, with analyzing the data collected, deriving a trend and sharing it with people who matter, namely their reporting managers and their supervisors.
Exit interviews can play a pivotal role in helping an organization understand what to start doing, stop and continue doing only if used in the right manner. Exit interviews need to move on from being just a tick in the box activity to a well-planned, executed and analyzed activity for any organization to succeed in retaining its people.