Listen To Your Ex-Employees They Might Surprise You

No matter what industry you’re in, people are going to leave the job. It’s just a part of doing business – dedicated essential employees leave top tier jobs just like baseball players ready for their next big payday. It might not be you, well, sometimes it is you, but we’ll get into that later. The average worker goes through a lot of jobs. Because this economy is much more diverse than our parents and even more so than our grandparents, people aren’t lifers who get the gold watch and retire. Instead, this is a culture of right now, and people want to move forward with what’s best for them.
But, have you stopped to ask why?
Maybe it’s money or flexibility, perhaps it’s a lousy manager. Whatever the case may be, it’s essential to know why an employee is headed for the door. Some companies are ahead on this when an employee leaves and ask them for a quick meeting to get their thoughts on a variety of issues. There’s an industry term for this, it’s exit interview. By performing an exit interview, it gives HR a chance to really lean into why someone’s leaving but use the conversation to improve retention. This is a chance to examine morale and understand a particular team’s day-to-day processes. According to Forbes, over 90% of the big Fortune 500 companies perform an exit interview because gaining this candid knowledge could help with retention as well as insight into onboarding When an employee puts in their two weeks, the wind down typically opens the door to open conversation and transparent honesty about what was wrong, what worked, and what didn’t. Sometimes, what you think is the reason why someone left, might not be correct at all, especially if there’s a toxic element happening behind the scenes. (I loved my team or the far worse, “my boss was a jerk.”) This is the employee’s last chance to have a deep conversational interaction, so it’s important they feel comfortable laying it all out on the line. The whole point of the exit interview is to get data on if something’s working or if someone is causing a problem. What should you look for when performing an exit interview? We put together a list of what you should ask when someone wants to split for potentially greener pastures.
First things first, do it in person
People are a lot more honest when they’re face to face. There’s something about talking over the phone that allows either person to skit questions with ambiguity that doesn’t translate the same as if they were in the same room together. Plus, it’s a class move. The employee will appreciate the time. When you’re setting up the interview, make sure it’s scheduled for one of their last two days, just to make sure guards are down.
What should you ask?
Remember, this is about the employee who’s leaving, to provide you with meaningful data. There are some base questions worth knowing, this way you can compare answers and check for common threads. As a warm-up, remind the person they don’t have to answer anything they don’t feel comfortable talking about. Make sure you also let that person know their answers will be shared with management. Consider asking these questions:
  • Why are you leaving? (Dig in deeper if the question feels a little open ended.)
  • Are we doing something wrong? What can we change?
  • Are we doing something right? Did you love anything about the job?
  • What changes would you like to see made?
  • Did anyone go above and beyond to help you?
  • How would you improve the situation that made you want to leave?
  • Do your co-workers feel similar?
  • Give us a snapshot of how you feel about your time here.
  • What three things would you change?
  • What advice do you have for who takes over the role?
  • Do you feel like management listened to your opinions?
  • Describe the best things about working with your boss
The stuff you shouldn’t ask
If it seems inappropriate, you should steer clear, obviously, but if one of the reasons this person is leaving is because of harassment or any kind of hostility, it’s critical to go into HR mode and follow investigation guidelines.   To add to this thought:
  • Don’t buy into office gossip. If someone mentions something, take it at face value and move on.
  • Don’t dig too deep with someone, if they want to give the information away, chances are, they will.
  • Don’t dive into the personal, keep it professional
  • Don’t try to make them stay, if they were really that valuable, you’d have already worked to keep them
  • Don’t ask questions if someone could potentially be in an uncomfortable situation
What should you do with the feedback?
Take all of the employee’s answers and utilize them for valuable data. Share anything meaningful with that person’s boss or with their boss if the information is pertinent. If you see patterns, that might be a reason to identify potential issues. Keep track of all notes, so in case you need to share either the long-term feedback or a person’s answers, the team at large can comment on the what’s been discovered. Listen to the people that are leaving. They could change how your team conducts itself but also represents the company business going forward. If you liked this article, be sure to check out the rest of the Adia blog, there’s a little something for everyone.
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