Are exit interviews a waste of time?

Are exit interviews a waste of time?

Are exit interviews a waste of time? Exit interviews can often be overlooked, as employers can be swayed to focus more on incoming talent rather than leaving staff.

Unless exiting employees are completely honest and transparent when it comes to answering the difficult questions, the interviews aren't of much use.

Shelley Passingham, Vice President, BM, Robert Half International, told us what she thinks employers should be asking in these interviews – mainly, stressing that HR makes the employees feel comfortable enough to be truthful. 

“Give people time to think about their responses,” she explained, “and not feel like they’re being interrogated on the spot.”

Ensure that you ask employees why they have decided to leave, what their new employer is offering and how management responded to complaints whilst they were still active in the company.

“Employees leaving your company can offer incredibly valuable insights and feedback that current staff may be more reluctant to share,” added Passingham.

“By making the most of this information, and acting on what they learn, companies can make changes and implement improvements that keep current staff engaged, and make the company more appealing to potential candidates.

“Exit interviews shouldn’t be overlooked. They can highlight areas that may need enhancement, such as ways in which workflow, as well as other processes, can be improved, streamlined and made more efficient.”

Crucially, the right person needs to be conducting the interview. HR could look to invite an impartial third party to conduct the interview – which would both put the employee at ease and allow for an equal playing field. If the feedback from the interview simply falls on deaf ears, then there’s little point in committing to a ‘box-ticking’ exercise.

Speaking to HRD Canada, Ben Whitter, Founder of the World Employee Experience Institute, advocates balancing exit interviews with ‘stay interviews’. He told us: “The role of direct manager should be considered within this alongside functions like employee experience or HR.”

Research from Kronos found that 87% of HR leaders believe improved retention to be a critical priority in the upcoming years. Poor communication leads to increased turnover, as a Watson Wyatt study found that firms who are adept at communication are more likely to report turnover levels below the industry average.

Elsabe Fratti, Head of Reward at Santam, suggests HR take a more proactive approach to employer-employee meetings: “You can learn more about retaining staff if you interview people who stayed, than people who are leaving. Leavers are usually not in a frame of mind to help HR fix anything, and by the time they leave are more concerned about smoothing their own exit than addressing your people management issues.”

For now, it seems as if HR is divided on the usefulness of exit interviews -  but perhaps opening the lines of communication with employees before they decide to leave could help improve retention by default.

By continually speaking with employees, asking for their feedback and their thoughts, not only will you foster a culture of inclusiveness, but you can also address any issues before they spiral out of control.

Do you think exit interviews are a waste of time? Tell us in the comments.

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