The exit interview answer all HR managers dread

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Forget the phrase ‘happy wife, happy life’; if you want to see true contentment at play, you need only to see how happily everyone interacts when a harmonious relationship is achieved between a leader and their people.
HR executives know it’s important to nurture strong and capable leaders within the organisation, as their sense of purpose and confidence flows down through the organisational chart.
The reverse is also true, according to senior HR professional, Julianne May – and it’s usually too late when HR realises just how bad the situation has become.
“During exit interviews, employees often tell HR, ‘I loved my job, just couldn't stand to come to work with “that” manager any longer, even though I like this, or believe in this, or invested years in XYZ’,” she said.
“On the flipside, if the relationship between manager and employee is high quality, miracles can happen; all parties can exceed their personal and the organisation’s expectations, and major obstacles can be overcome.”
Staff are generally more open during exit interviews and the information gleaned during these meetings often reveals what HR already knows: Employees who love their boss will stick around in a job they don’t particularly enjoy, while employees who don’t gel with their superiors are much likely to leave a job they technically like.
“What I've witnessed that secures loyalty over time and in various economies is quality of leadership,” May said. 
“On a macro level, employees have to feel their effort is being invested in a worthwhile mission, so the quality of top leadership and strategy has a definite role to play. On a more micro level, the immediate manager is the person who most closely impacts the everyday experience of the employee, so this relationship is critical to building loyalty and affecting retention.” 
As much as 50% of our experience at work can be attributed to our immediate boss, added Lyndal Hughes, associate director, Third Horizon Consulting Partners.
“It doesn’t matter what else goes on, the ‘make or break’ factor on whether an employee stays in a role or not, is often down to their manager,” she said. 
What's the worst thing you've been told in an exit interview? Share your stories below.
  • Richard Westney on 14/03/2014 11:18:08 a.m.

    I dislike exit interviews with a passion. I have sat through so many whinge fests we no longer bother with them in my organisation. We get all the info we need from an online questionnaire. It's a very one-sided view of the world in many cases.

    Exit interviews are closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. HR need to be aware of the issues long before the exit stage and the challenge is to be close enough to the action to see and hear the issues before they get to exit stage.

    My suggestion to HR people is to focus on retaining those who are talented, committed and engaged. Not dealing with historical nonsense they can do nothing about.

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