Developing Your Talent

It’s Not Too Late to Engage Even When You’re Saying Goodbye

By JC Heinen on November 7, 2012

Engaging your workforce happens at every stage of the relationship between employee and employer, even when saying goodbye. Through well-facilitated exit interviews, you can uncover the critical data needed to maintain your company’s reputation as an employer of choice. Unfortunately, exit interviews are often treated as a perfunctory requirement rather than an opportunity to gain insight into the workings of the organization.

Here are some tips for eliciting meaningful (and authentic) feedback from your exiting employees:

  • Encourage disclosure. If your organization is using an electronic survey, make sure the questions go beyond multiple choice, ratings or rankings. Include open-ended questions where employees can share detailed feedback. Conduct interviews in person whenever possible to delve deeper into that responses provided by the exiting employee.
  • Establish trust. The interview should be conducted by HR or an outside consultant – not the employee’s supervisor. Open the conversation by reassuring the employee that his or her responses will in no way influence future references. Highlight the intent: to gather information that can enhance and improve the employee experience.
  • Probe for information. Ask questions about the employee/manager relationship, the company culture, management style, recognition, office facilities and employee morale. Also include questions on the competitiveness of the benefits package, compensation issues and what the employee liked or didn’t like about the organization and job.
  • Listen, take note of complaints, and don’t challenge. Be open to hearing feedback. Exit interviews are an opportunity to learn and gain insider information that you may not always be privy to. Any issues that could invite litigation (harassment, safety, discrimination, etc.) or sound vaguely unethical should be investigated immediately.
  • Analyze the results and look for trends. Report findings to management in the form of a summarized report to protect employee privacy.
  • End on a positive note. Thank employees for their feedback and wish them well as they move on to their next positions. You can often diffuse anger and resentment by simply showing the employee respect. Your organization’s reputation is always on the line.

Lastly, learn from these interviews. Make efforts to open the lines of communication with current employees to retain key talent.  Learn about cultural, operational or managerial issues before it’s too late and address what you can. Your last conversation with an employee shouldn’t have been your first.

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