What Exit Interviews Miss

ExitLet’s begin with full disclosure on my part; I’ve never been on either side of an exit interview. I’ve had very few jobs so there has been little opportunity for me to provide my own feedback and I’ve never had anyone who worked for me quit. I have never in my life sat on either side of an exit interview desk.

But I’ve seen the results of many exit interviews and virtually every single one of them had the same thing in common; they said, if the words of the departing employee, why they were leaving.

Most companies do not know the reasons why employees stay or the actual reasons why they leave. They sort of attempt to figure out the later with an exit interview but exit interviews almost never differentiate between factors that make the new job attractive to the departing employee, and the reasons why the employee was prompted to consider leaving his or her current job in the first place.

For example, many employees report “better compensation” as one of their main reasons for leaving. Research revealed that these same employees were not, in fact, originally unhappy with their compensation. Instead, other reasons caused them to consider leaving their current job, such as lack of advancement opportunities or a feeling of being taken for granted.

Because of this situation, information from exit interviews often fail to reveal the actual causes of a company’s key employees.

The job market continues to pick up around the U.S. and companies can lose employees even when the employee isn’t looking to change jobs. If you’re not yet aware of this then consider this post a wake-up call – you’re best employees either are or soon will be recruited by other companies.

Most of your key employees will turn down recruiters right up until the one time that they don’t. What causes the change that makes someone act on a recruiter’s call at a particular point in time? That’s what you had better be searching for in your next exit interview.

Something changed, something in their work situation deteriorated to the point that they were vulnerable to an offer from another company. If you don’t know what deteriorated then you will not be able to fix it. If you do not fix it then it will happen again. When it happens again you will lose another key employee.

It’s a pretty darn good time to be looking for work, it’s so good that your employees can find another job when they are not even looking for one. It’s a terrible time to have issues in your organization that would give your best employees a reason to leave because they now have ample opportunity to leave.

The answers you need to keep your top performers can come from asking the right questions in an exit interview. Instead of asking only “why are you leaving?” perhaps try asking “what could have made you stay?”

You may not like the answers but if use the information to build a stronger organization you most certainly will like the end result.

5 thoughts on “What Exit Interviews Miss

  1. Mark Dooley says:

    The last two paragraphs are excellent. I also have not been involved in either side of an exit interview. But the opportunity to build a better organization comes from honest, open communication. I would challenge supervisors to communicate with their people now and ask what the enjoy about their workplace and what can be done to make it a better workplace. This would hopefully allow the employer from not having to do an exit interview because they are the business that is growing and recruiting the top talent in their industry.

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