The Importance of Exit Interviews
Despite being treated as chores and unavoidable components of the organizational processes, Exit Interviews are indeed important and can serve as sources of valuable feedback and provide inputs for learning and improvement within the organizations.
Exit Interviews, as the name implies are conducted when employees leave organizations and are used to elicit the reasons for their exits (for voluntary separations) and to discern the exact pointers on how the departing employee views the organization and its key stakeholders as well as the all important aspect of how he or she views his or her immediate manager.
Most HR Managers often keep the Exit Interviews short for employees who are not deemed to be valuable and whose exit from the organization is not considered an irreparable or even for that matter, a significant loss.
However, as this article argues, this is not the right approach and we recommend that HR managers make time for all employees who are leaving, irrespective of their experience and their designation or for matter, their performance and learn from them and seek feedback about what to improve and if anything could have been done to retain them.
Candid Employees, Sensitive HR Managers, and Honest Feedback
Exit Interviews often see the departing employees in a voluble mood wherein if given the chance they open up and expand on the reasons why they are leaving the organization. Research suggests that nearly 80% of all employees who quit do so because they cannot get along with their managers.
Thus, employees leave because of their immediate managers rather than the organization per se. This means that Exit Interviews often become occasions for such employees to vent their frustrations and open up on what they think could have been done better.
While we certainly do not suggest that HR Managers become a sponge for cribbers and whiners, it is also the case that genuine feedback and learning can be derived from departing employees who are often more open during the Exit Interviews.
Indeed, in our experience, we have found that whenever we left organizations, we used the Exit Interviews to open up and be very candid about not only the reasons why we are leaving but also what can or could have been done to retain us in the organization.
Moreover, Exit Interviews also offer the departing employees one last chance to express what they have always felt, but have restrained themselves from expressing for fear of reprisals.
Need for Organizational Approach and Senior Leadership Involvement
On the other hand, it is not only the HR managers but also the organizational approach and the attitude of the senior leadership that makes the difference as to whether Exit Interviews are treated as Mere Formalities or a genuine effort is made to understand the employee’s grievances and learn from them on how to make changes to the organizational approach.
We have worked in organizations where the CEO or the Chief Executive Officer often makes it a point to go through each Exit Interview form and in organizations that are so big that the Exit Interviews are often conducted by Junior HR Personnel.
We have also come across instances where Exit Interviews are conducted by Senior Managers and even Execs whenever key employees quit the organization. Further, there are instances where managerial level employees who leave are often asked to attend an exit interview conducted by a Senior Manager and then another by the HR Manager.
Thus, it is our contention that there ought to be an organizational mandate to take Exit Interviews seriously and as learning experiences that can serve as important insight gaining and knowledge sharing sessions.
The Upsides and Downsides of Exit Interviews
Having said that, it is also the case that Exit Interviews must not be used to settle scores either by the departing employees or the HR and the Managerial personnel.
For instance, if a departing employee says bad things and downright negative things about other employees, the feedback must be vetted by senior managers and HR personnel so that it does not play into the hands of other managers to settle scores with the concerned manager.
In addition, departing employees must not be allowed to turn the Exit Interviews into Platforms for their alleged grievances and their ramblings on how the organization failed them.
This is where a sensitive and discerning HR manager can play a key role as he or she can steer the conversation into positive territory whenever it gets bitter and negative.
Moreover, experienced HR managers also can handle potential harassment and discrimination claims made by employees in a more clinical manner.
Indeed, one of the most important learning’s that can come from the Exit Interviews is information about Gender and Racial harassment at the workplace that otherwise is often beneath the surface and below the radar. In such cases, Exit Interviews can turn into Goldmines of feedback of what really goes on the Floor.