7 Tips for Conducting a Successful (and Painfree!) Exit Interview

Exit interviews can be a little uncomfortable but are extremely important for improving business success. Start mining useful information from exit interviews by following these 7 tips.

If you’re a business owner, you’re probably not fully utilizing one of the simplest and most valuable tools to make your business stronger: the exit interview. It’s more than just an awkward goodbye (even though it doesn’t have to be painful). An exit interview is a discovery tool that uncovers patterns you may be too close to see.

Emotions run high on both sides when an employee resigns. It often leaves owners understaffed and feeling overwhelmed. The resignation may even feel a bit personal too—even if employees are just moving on for reasons that have nothing to do with you or your business. Still, no business owner wants high turnover rates, since some studies estimate that turnover costs 90-200% of an employee’s annual salary – by no means an insignificant sum.

That’s why, if you want your business to grow stronger with low turnover, it’s important that you put any personal feelings aside to conduct a comprehensive exit interview. An honest discussion that allows you to fully understand the reason for the resignation will help you and your management team identify potential areas of improvement.

Many business owners dread exit interviews, but the information you get can be invaluable to improving your business and its success. Follow these 7 tips to mine the most information:

1. Prepare and share the objective – Tell the employee ahead of time the objective of the interview and that you want them to be honest. By doing this, you’ll be forced to think through your questions carefully and the employee will be better prepared to answer them. Additionally, both of you will have some time to prep emotionally. This will lead to more honest answers that you can use to improve the business and your employee retention rate.

2. Don’t have the employee’s direct supervisor be the interviewer
– If possible, pick someone in HR or someone else on the management team that isn’t a direct supervisor. This will avoid any awkwardness that comes from the employee revealing management issues or team conflict and will improve the chance of having an honest and open discussion.

3. Allow plenty of time
– You may need to explore avenues of discussion that you didn’t anticipate. Also, if the employee feels you’re distracted or rushed, they may be less inclined to answer honestly. So, take your time.

4. Communicate without being defensive
– You may hear things you don’t like and don’t think are true. However, don’t shut down the discussion. While you may ultimately end up deciding to discount information you feel is incorrect, you need to be open to new information and keep the conversation flowing. After all, an exit interview is all about discovering what’s working and what isn’t.

5. Ask simple but effective questions – Try to stay away from open-ended questions, like “Why are you resigning?” Ask more pointed questions that will result in direct answers. For example, ask if they had enough on-the-job training or what the new job is offering that you currently don’t have. A line of questioning like this will give you some insight into your on-boarding and training process or whether your benefits package is competitive enough to hire and keep employees.

6. Make sure the setting is private
– In open offices, this can be more challenging than you’d think. Book a conference room or have access to a private office. Also consider a trip to a coffee shop or some other relaxing setting. You may get more useful information in a neutral environment.

7. Thank the employee
– Thank your employee for the discussion and honest answers. Also, thank them for their work – even if you don’t feel they did the job well.

Remember, an exit interview is for your benefit and the benefit of your remaining and future employees. It’s an opportunity to learn something about your business from the perspective of the people working for you. Follow these tips and get an honest take on what’s working and what’s not working within your organization so you can make it better and stronger.

Verity Commercial is here as a resource for more than just securing great office space. We help you strengthen all aspects of your business by making real estate a business advantage. If you’re looking for more insights or tips, check out our resources or contact us directly.


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