June 23, 2010 Thought Provoking

Exit interview downside, What to do?

Exit interviews are a helpful tool to understand more about why employees leave your company.  However, too often employees are not candid during the exit interview.  The major reason is they do not trust that the information will not get back to their direct boss, especially if the boss is the reason they are leaving.  Employees enjoy good benefits, and competitive wages, but often give that up to get away from an overbearing or ineffective manager.   Exit Interviews become mini survey’s and employees only provide the information they need to.

Senior leaders should consider two processes.  The first is to have exit interviews conducted by an impartial entity.  Your HR person may be the best in the industry, but if poor management goes unnoticed or excuses have been made for a certain managers style or approach,  employees lose confidence in HR, management and the process.  Separating employees may view an outsider more trust worthy and provide information they otherwise wouldn’t.  If provided with specific information and suggestions senior managers can begin to look into issues that may be unseen in a busy daily operation.  This process may also identify areas where management training is needed. 

The second recommendation and to me the more important one is for senior managers to engage employees through “skip level” one on one’s or roundtable meetings.  These are performed on a regular basis and not just when someone is resigning or there is an issue.  If designed and executed properly these types of communication processes can offer a wealth of knowledge about your organization as well as alert you to possible issues and training needs, before they become a problem.  Warning: These types of meetings can  never become  a form of punishment for employees or managers.  It also can’t be a session for the CEO or senior leader to become defensive.  This is about gathering information and determining what the needs of the organization are from someone other than your direct reports.  As you gather this information on a regular basis and act upon those areas you can, the process gains credibility and positive ideas become the focus.