The Exit Interview – A tool to uncover your employees’ perceptions of your organization’s culture, structure, leadership and more.

By Pamela J. Watkins

For the past 25 years, I have been conducting employee exit interviews in one fashion or another.  Some of these were formal and structured interviews focused on specific criteria, i.e., how the employee rated our compensation, benefits, and working conditions.  Other interviews were unstructured meant to focus on gaining insight into employee motivation, management effectiveness and ways to improve our processes and procedures.

While mentoring a newly trained HR professional, I was told, “Exit interviews are a waste of my time.  The employee is leaving anyway so I don’t care what they think.”

I had to pause before explaining the value of this simple meeting with an employee who is leaving your organization.  A summary of key points follows:

  1. Your employees are one main asset that differentiates you from other companies and drives success.  Why would you not want their feedback? If they share information (the good, the bad and the ugly), maybe other employees are feeling the same way?  It is an opportunity to take the feedback and make positive changes.
  2. A well-done exit interview can help HR professionals know why people stay and why they really leave.  It can help us understand the employee’s perceptions of the work, the culture, manager’s leadership styles, and benchmark compensation and benefit packages.
  3. Companies may uncover issues in exit interviews.  The exit interview should not focus solely on wages and benefits because money is not the sole factor that usually makes employees leave. However, you may hear about favoritism, poor management, and lack of communication.  All things that your C suite officers should know about.
  4. The exit interview is the last time a HR professional can speak confidentially with the exiting employee. If anything has been pushed aside, i.e., hostile work environment issues, bullying that has been unreported, etc., it may come out in an exit interview.
  5. Lastly, the exit interview is not meant to uncover organizational failures or be a complaint session but rather an exchange of information that will help with future retention and an opportunity for the company to learn from their most important asset – their people.

To learn more about customizing exit interviews for your organization, please contact me at: