Getting Exit Interviews right


19 October 2023

Too often Exit Interviews fail to either improve retention or produce useful information. There are two possible reasons why. The first is data quality. The usefulness of an exit interview depends utterly on the honesty and forthrightness of the departing employee. People may be less than candid on their way out the door for many reasons. Some feel pressed for time or unmotivated to explore their feelings. They may not want to say anything negative about a manager they like, or anything at all about a manager they do not like.

In a typical exit interview, an HR employee will ask you to fill out a few forms. An interesting question is ‘do the business really want to hear anything’? The person has resigned. Do they want to understand why or is it easier to just move on? If the leaver does say something provocative, does that just create paperwork because the interviewer is obligated to document it. Companies often miss feedback which are invaluable to learn ways to improve the workplace culture and how they can keep employees more engaged. If you are leaving for a certain company or a better salary, that’s good information for a company to have too.

Why can they be difficult At an exit interview, there can be concerns from both sides about the giving and receiving feedback especially in areas that may be subjective and critique the management style of those staying in the business.

If the organisation acts on what could be ‘fake news’, they could come to the wrong conclusions, make changes, or set up training that was not required.

Feedback is not easy to evidence when there aren’t numbers or metrics or if the feedback is about another’s communication style. If the feedback is fair and has substance but is overlooked, it may create problems for the organisation in the future meaning lessons are not learnt.

Using an Independent Coach

As a coach, it has been observed (first-hand) that there can be quite a difference in what organisations hear at exit interviews compared to what someone tells an independent party. A coach is skilled at being able to create a safe environment for the exit interview to take place and another skill to allow the leaver to be ‘honest’. The benefit of not only having an independent hear but also the skills used in coaching will create a useful interaction.

Specialist coaches would provide their expertise as an ‘impartial third party’ at exit interviews, collate more reliable information and spot patterns that might be overlooked by those who are ‘too close’ to the action.

Is there a need for specialist support for organisations? Will HR functions want support in ensuring exit interviews achieve their desired outcome and training or learning needs are accurately identified and addressed?


Can ‘coaching’ approaches offer the solutions?

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