However, using exit interviews to understand why an employee leaves and what can be done to improve the organization can help leaders face retention head-on.
Fight to keep employees before it's too late. Here are five ways to make sure you get the most out of exit interviews.
1. Build relationships from Day 1.
A solid foundation of trust between a company and the departing employee begins from the moment they're hired.
"The questions asked and responses given are only as strong as the relationship we have with the team member," said Emily Allen, director of people operations at Seer Interactive.
"I find that there's lots of good questions, but the most helpful parts of exit interviews occur when you go off script and have a dialogue about an answer to a specific question surrounding how to make the company better or how we could have supported a team member better, etc."
Engage employees through continual feedback and encouragement to build strong relationships. Software, such as Engagedly or Teamphoria, can help make employee engagement a natural piece of your company culture.
Allow managers and peers to openly offer praise and feedback to make exiting employees feel more comfortable providing their own quality feedback.
2. Formalize the process.
Sporadic exit surveys don't give leaders the consistent and quality information they're seeking. Rather than seeing the whole picture, they're left with smaller snapshots of the issues at hand.
"At Badger, we have both an anonymous exit survey where people can give feedback and an in-person exit interview with me so that I can have a richer discussion and dig into their good ideas," said Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps.
Benson continued, "People have given me ideas about how to improve our employee onboarding process, what types of options and benefits they'd like to have seen, ways to improve communication processes, improvements on how we could work better together, and many more."
Show employees the organization takes exit interviews seriously by setting up a strategic plan--and stick to it. In your plan, include who performs in-person interviews, when they'll take place, and what questions will be asked both in-person and on anonymous surveys.
3. Ask for the good and the bad.
"If outgoing employees want to vent about problems, this can be helpful when attempting to address the underlying issues. However, they should also be asked questions about their positive experiences," said Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist at Insperity.
Exit survey questions should allow employees to comfortably communicate both positives and negatives about the organization. Also, ask about how you're doing in your role and what they'd do differently if they were in your position to reveal misconceptions or leadership issues.
Employees won't completely open up during exit interviews if they feel attacked. Jose Costa, group president of Driven Brands, understands employees don't feel blindsided it they already know where management ranks their performance.
"Since at Driven Brands we recognize people based on their performance and promote them based on merit, we started publicly ranking our employees so they know where they stand in relation to their peers," Costa stated.
Costa suggests implementing 360-degree performance reviews and monthly evaluations to give employees a transparent view of how they're doing. Recognize employees for their hard work frequently to enhance their motivation and positive experiences with the company.
4. Challenge assumptions.
Don't get ahead of yourself by becoming overly confident.
"We recognized that the team wanted clearer paths to promotion and also support (formalized training) to get there," said Allen. "So, we've given that to them by rolling out titles, defining steps to take to progress in different ways, and also we've made a large investment by hiring a FTE to own and tackle the charge of learning and development at Seer."
Keep leaders on their toes by challenging assumptions during exit interviews. You might be surprised by what you discover.
For example, perhaps you assume employees want professional development freedom. But by asking about your program in an exit interview, you discover employees actually want more guidance.
5. Give them space to talk.
"Is there anything I haven't asked about that you'd like to add?"
Christian De Pape, head of brand and operations at Recruiting Social, always asks this question at the end of exit interviews.
"This last question allows them to hone and summarize their feedback in a way that is usually most insightful. It also allows them to raise topics that you might never have thought to ask about, but that are important or impacting the employee experience," De Pape said.
Employees feel vulnerable when they're asked to open up before leaving. Keep them comfortable by listening and validating their thoughts, even if you don't agree.