Exit interview guide to best practice

February 2012

Capturing exiting employee data is important to your organisation's success

Retention of skilled employees is critical for an organisation to achieve consistent high performance. Savvy organisations know that retaining staff to maintain capability and productivity levels will best position them for financial success in the long term. Retaining talented employees also saves money that may otherwise have been spent on recruitment and training costs. These issues raise a couple of questions for leaders:

  • What levers can we pull to ensure our staff stay engaged?
  • What might impact high-performing and critically skilled talent to leave?

When employees exit an organisation they not only take with them all their skills and expertise but also an impression, opinion and wealth of experiences that influenced their decision to leave. An understanding of these staff turnover issues is vital to create and execute an effective staff retention strategy and to ensure your organisation has the resources needed to grow and meet performance targets. There are a wide range of organisational, interpersonal and personal factors that influence an employee's decision to leave and an effective exit interview process will enable the capture of rich data to assist organisations in prioritsing opportunities for improvement and will form the basis of meaningful staff retention strategies.

Use of online Insync Surveys' Exit Survey portal vs. phone based exit interviews

All of our clients use our online Exit Survey portal but some also select phone based exit interviews. The portal has online survey functionality, allowing respondents to complete their exit interview privately from their own computer. Some of our clients also use Insync Surveys' trained exit interviewers to conduct phone based exit interviews. While phone based exit interviews are more costly, they can increase response rates (as the interviewer makes several call attempts) and they can enhance the depth of responses as the exit interviewer probes for further information. By having a third party conduct exit interviews over the phone, the departing employee is also often more candid. We then type verbatim comments collected in the exit interview into the client's portal, so everything is online and accessible to administrators.

Engaging staff to respond

A third party impartial exit interview process will provide exiting employees with an opportunity to candidly and honestly provide feedback across a range of key cultural and performance dimensions. For organisations the exit interview process will be a means to identify key concerns from exiting employees and capture their primary reasons for leaving. Achieving a high participation rate in an exit interview is essential to ensure validity of data, however impartiality of a third party provider and the opportunity to provide feedback alone are not always enough to gain support from departing employees to participate.

In Insync Surveys' experience, best practice suggests that effective administration is crucial to ensure the successful capture of data in an exit interview.

Communicating the exit survey

For staff to engage in the exit process the accessibility and benefits of the exit survey need to be consistently communicated to all staff. The easiest and most effective method for communicating this message with staff is though their direct managers. You need the support of your managers to attract staff participation in the exit interview process. Managers need to communicate with all staff that the opportunity to participate in an exit interview is open to them and need to reinforce that confidentiality assured.

In the absence of managers communicating the exit interview  message, staff can still be encouraged to participate in an exit interview  through information and key messages posted on the client organisation's intranet or any other forum accessible staff.

Response rates

One process that has been effective in increasing response rates in other organisations that Insync Surveys have worked with is establishing a KPI for each area manager in relation to the number of employees who have left their department compared with the number of employees that have been invited to complete an exit interview  . This then places responsibility on the manager to encourage each exiting employee to participate in the process and therefore may lead to an increase in response rates.

Exit interview analysis

Through Insync Survey's Exit survey portal, administrators have the ability run reports based on a certain demographic group. For example, the administrator can run reports on why people are leaving one department or division over a certain time period. The ability to look at the results individually and collectively can help facilitate interventions to prevent other employees from exiting the same department.

In our experience working with other organisations it can also be advantageous to have a close link with pay roll when looking at the exact number of employees who are leaving the organisation at any one time. The pay roll department often has the exact data on which employees have left the organisation and this can be of benefit to match against the employees who have received an exit interview  in the same time period.

Exit interview administration

Insync Surveys recommends that there is a centralised team responsible for all exit interview  administration including inviting staff to participate, sending reminders and handling of any reporting. Specifically, a centralised administration team will:

  • assure consistency of application - a smaller, centralised team are more likely to use the same administrative approach
  • increase response exit survey  and exit interview  rates - administrators with access to accurate and current statistics will be able to monitor survey responses and send automated reminders to departing employees which may see an increase to the number of completed exit interviews
  • maintain confidentiality - the fewer number of people with access to reporting will reduce the risk of information and data being inappropriately or mistakenly distributed to others within the organisation

Typically, each Insync Surveys client names a few staff members as the internal administrators. Ideally, when an employee departs from an organisation a notification is sent to one of the organisation's own exit administrators who is then responsible for inviting the exiting employee to complete a survey. These people are typically members of your HR team. Invitations are sent directly to the exiting employee's email address from Insync Surveys' secure database. Your administrators are then able to monitor participation in the exit survey and if required are able to send an automated reminder to the exiting employee to ensure they have the opportunity to provide feedback in a confidential environment.

In instances where an employee is unable or unwilling to complete a survey online a paper survey should be offered to ensure all staff members are provided with the opportunity to provide feedback. Insync Surveys can assist with paper exit interviews  .

Efficiency

The ability to have all exit interview  information from every area of the business in one secure online location is a significant advantage for any organisation. In many instances, the online database replaces a trail of ad hoc paperwork from all different areas kept in multiple locations with no ability to track trends or view individual results from the past.

Survey security with passwords

When an administrator initiates an exit interview  from Insync Surveys an email containing a direct link to the exit survey and a unique password are emailed to the exiting employee. The employee is then able to log onto the system, use their unique password to enter and complete the exit interview  online.  A respondent is more likely to participate if they are emailed a direct link and password to a survey rather than needing to seek out the link themselves. Providing a departing employee with a unique password will mean that only one response is captured and that the respondent is not able to access the survey and respond multiple times. Unique passwords also allows the organisation to more easily identify the number of exiting employees at a glance for a certain period by monitoring the number of invitations in the stats tab of the administration portal.

The benefits of this approach are:

  • increased response rates which means more data, this gives HR a more thorough view into what's happening with employee turnover
  • trusted employee turnover metrics to empower HR's informed decisions

Confidentiality

When password administration for an exit interview  is utilised the exit interview  by its nature is not entirely confidential. Unless specified by a departing employee, their individual responses may be shared with their manager or team leader. Insync Surveys recommends that this is communicated openly with any staff member participating in an exit interview  so that they are aware of this condition. The staff member is then able to indicate if they wish for their responses to be shared or not.

Ensuring confidentiality of responses to a certain point is the foundation for building on response rates. When exiting employees complete a survey they place their trust in the hands of the administrators to handle their responses with care. Confidentiality is a non negotiable and Insync Surveys recommends that an organisation is resolute in its attempts to minimise potential breaches in confidentiality in an exit interview  administration.

What does exit interview best practice look like?

Exit interview best practice

Read our Exit Interview resources and articles: