Learning from Exiting Employees

Whenever we ask employment and HR experts about the value of exit interviews, they inevitably arrive at the same, logical conclusion: Departing employees can be a source of priceless advice that, if acted upon, may just save you from losing talented workers in the future.

Taking action, of course, is the key. And the problem, as the experts have always pointed out, is that some (many?) employers don’t do enough with the information gleaned from exit interviews to address the issues that soon-to-be-former workers bring to light.

Take heart, however. Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm Office Team offers evidence that more companies are getting the message.

Office Team’s recent survey of more than 300 HR managers found 63 percent of these respondents saying their organization commonly acts on feedback received in exit interviews.

How are they reacting? When asked how they follow up after conducting said interviews, the most common actions were to update job descriptions (29 percent), discuss feedback regarding management (24 percent), make changes to the work environment/corporate culture (22 percent) and review employee salaries (19 percent).

The poll also asked HR managers how often their firms act on the information gathered during exit interviews. Thirty-five percent said they do “somewhat often,” while 28 percent reported taking action “very often.” Another 24 percent indicated they instigate change based on exit interview feedback “not very often,” and 13 percent said they “never” do so.

In a press release highlighting these findings, Office Team offers some tips for getting the most out of these final sit-downs with employees about to leave the organization. For example:

  • Time it well. Consider scheduling the meeting on one of the worker’s last days. Keep the conversation brief and professional.
  • Don’t make it awkward (and make sure HR is involved). Because departing employees may be uncomfortable discussing certain topics with their supervisors, have an HR representative conduct one-on-one meetings in private settings.
  • Don’t get defensive. Avoid correcting or confronting the employee, and listen carefully in order to gather as many details as possible.
  • Don’t brush things off. Give all comments that are shared the proper attention. Also, check for patterns in feedback collected from employees, which can signal persistent problems.

“The only silver lining to losing employees is obtaining useful feedback to help stem further turnover,” says Brandi Britton, an Office Team district president, in the aforementioned statement.

“Departing workers can provide valuable insights that current staff may be reluctant to share. Although not every criticism will be worth responding to, the most crucial issues should be addressed immediately to help keep existing team members happy and loyal.”