Exit Interviews: An Effective Tool for Improving Employee Retention Rates

By Maria Forbes
July 31, 2020

If you’re searching for ways to improve your company’s employee retention rate, you should consider using exit interviews. You can’t expect to retain all your company’s employees. Over time, some employees will depart for reasons beyond your control.
When an employee chooses to leave, however, you can conduct an interview to gain insight into his or her reason for leaving. Known as an exit interview, it’s an effective tool for improving employee retention rates.

What Is an Exit Interview?

An exit interview is a one-on-one survey conducted between an employer – or a human relations (HR) manager – and an employee who’s leaving the company for which he or she works. During an exit interview, the employer will ask questions to better understand the specific reason or reasons behind the employee’s decision to leave.
Exit interviews are considered an element of employee offboarding. Not to be confused with onboarding, offboarding is the separation of an employee from the company for which he or she works. While some employers disregard offboarding as being useless, it’s highly beneficial when performed correctly. Offboarding practices, including the use of exit interviews, provide employers with essential information about their employees – specifically why employees quit.

How Exit Interviews Impact Employee Retention Rates

Conducting exit interviews can improve your company’s employee retention rate by providing insight into why employees part ways with your company. Most employees leave because of a specific reason or reasons. Maybe an employee feels unrecognized by his or her peers, or perhaps an employee feels stuck in his or her current job without the option to advance to a higher-paying position.
Employees won’t always voice their concerns or problems during their tenure. Some employees fear retaliation, so they’ll keep their opinions to themselves. When employees leave, however, they are typically more open and willing to talk about their negative experiences. They’ve already made the decision to leave, so they no longer fear retaliation when speaking out. Conducting exit interviews allows you to gather essential information about the experiences of your company’s employees and what prompted them to leave.
With the information gained from conducting exit interviews, you can make positive changes within your company that encourages its existing and future employees to stay. If employees are leaving because they don’t feel recognized by their professional peers, for example, you can develop and deploy an employee recognition program.
If employees are leaving because they feel stuck in their respective job, on the other hand, you can allow for professional development. Regardless, before you can make these positive changes, you must find out why employees leave your company – and that’s the fundamental purpose of conducting exit interviews.

Tips for Conducting Effective Exit Interviews

To improve your company’s employee retention rate with exit interviews, there are a few things you should know. For starters, you should accept and even embrace criticism. Some employers reject criticism because it reflects poorly upon their ability to run and operate their company. If you reject an employee’s criticism, though, the employee may be hesitant to share his or her full experience. As a result, the information you gain from the exit interview won’t be of much use. Instead of rejecting criticism during exit interviews, embrace it while encouraging employees to give honest answers about their experience.
Exit interviews are most effective when performed in person. In other words, don’t send exit interviews to employees via email or mail. When an employee decides to leave, ask him or her to conduct a short one-on-one interview in person. You’ll be able to learn more about the employee’s experience when conducting the exit interview in person.
When conducting exit interviews, you may want to ask the following questions:

  • Did you enjoy working here?
  • What is your reason for leaving?
  • What did you like the most about working here?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your experience while working here?
  • What did you like the least about working here?
  • If you were to go back in time, would you still have taken the job? If not, why wouldn’t you?
  • What changes can we make to improve our company?

What About Stay Interviews?

You can also use stay interviews to improve your company’s employee retention rate. Stay interviews differ from exit interviews by being conducted during employees’ tenure. They aren’t conducted when employees leave. They are called “stay interviews” because they are conducted while employees “stay” with your company.
Stay interviews can provide information about the experiences of your company’s experiences. Like exit interviews, you can apply this information to your company’s practices to improve its employee retention rate. During stay interviews, you can ask similar questions, such as what employees like the most and like the least about working at your company.
Combined with exit interviews, they’ll provide you with the necessary information to make positive changes to your company that, ultimately, boosts its employee retention rate.

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