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February 14, 2007

On Exit Interviews

The CFO magazine writes about how exit interviews can be used as a tool to improve retention.

"Turnover is an expensive proposition, and 32 percent of companies surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers expect that cost to increase this year. Domeyer says exit interviews can be an excellent way to stem turnover because people are more likely to be candid about problems once they know they're moving on, especially if they can discuss them with a more objective party in HR."

My experience with exit interviews has been a little different. In fact, for a long time now Ive been wondering about the value of exit interviews. I believe they give you data, which you, as an HR person, should already have been aware of, and that too data - which many times is:

Highly exaggerated and unidimensional - "I hate my manager. and mark my words, everyone from his team is going to attrite in the next 3 months!"

Plagued with recency effect - Promotion loss, dissatisfaction with compensation hike, conflicts with the current boss

Coated with diplomacy - "It's a great place, but my interest lieelsewhere". "I've grown a lot here, now I need something more, which Idon't see this organization being able to give me"

Plain lies - "I wish to take a break in my career", only to find out a month later that the person has joined your competitor.

No one to blame here - because a lot of this is also about the way the exit interviews happen, and when they happen. Often they happen in the last week, amidst a whole lot of paperwork and winding up activities that the employee is swamped in. Also, their end outcome is a paper with the relevant checkboxes ticked - meaningful conversations are rare. And on those few ocassions when the interview has provided a lot of data, HR professionals get caught in the confidentiality rut - how do they act upon this data if they are not allowed to share it in the first place?

On the other hand, doing exit interviews after the employee has left (say within 3 months of his leaving) may be more useful. Logistically a little difficult to manage, but potentially more impactful.

As this CLC report says - (membership required)

Research suggests that companies are increasingly waiting to conduct exit interviews until several months after the employee has left. According to Entrepreneur, employers wait three to nine months, while IOMA and Workforce Management suggest waiting two to seven weeks. Conducting interviews after an employee has left may have the following results:
  • Participation levels may decrease the longer a company waits.
  • Employee feedback may be of higher quality because employees have had time to reflect on their experience with the company and are less busy dealing with other factors associated with changing jobs.
  • Employees may be more level-headed and provide honest, actionable feedback.

And then ofcourse, it could be a great way to build your corporate alumni network!

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2 Comments:

  • Interesting !

    Another advantage of doing exit interviews after 3 months could be that the organization might be able to re-hire a few of those employees. Of course, this has to be done very selectively (only in the case of those employees whom the organization really wants to re-hire and that too only in those cases where the organization is in a position to retain them after they join back). Again, this (re-hire effort) is more likely to be successful if the new organizations that the employees have joined have high rates of 'infant mortality' (% of employees who leave the organization within the first few months of joining).

    By Blogger Prasad Kurian, at Thursday, 15 February, 2007  

  • Interesting. I have had some great exit interviews with departing employees. I tend to ask pretty specific questions:

    "What were some of the factors that made your work enjoyable?"

    "Would you recommend this org to a friend as a place to come and work?"

    "Did you have the training needed to do your job well?"

    "How was your workload?"

    I also tell each person up front that I'll be presenting exit interview data (in aggregate) to company leadership within 6 months. Most people, even when unhappy, appreciated the fact that their exit interviews were not going to sit in a drawer in HR and rot.

    By Anonymous Cheri, at Wednesday, 28 February, 2007  

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