The exit interview: Why it’s important

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Honest and constructive feedback is given by almost 80% of leaving staff, yet only a quarter of hiring managers admit to just filing the information away, according to the latest research by specialist recruitment consultancy Robert Walters.

Failing to take note of issues raised in an exit interview or neglecting to carry one out can leave an organisation open to make the same mistakes or miss an opportunity to facilitate change. Sean Brunner, Wellington Director of Robert Walters, explained it is important to understand why the employee is leaving – even if the reasons are outside of the organisation’s control.

“The exit interview can provide some invaluable insights that may help improve the environment, communication, processes, training, management and culture of the workplace,” he told HRM Online.

“It’s also important that employees leave an organisation with a positive impression and the exit interview, if conducted in a constructive way, can facilitate that. In some cases, it provides an opportunity to address issues that employees are unhappy about and to put those issues to bed before their departure.”

Brunner points out that exit interviews can also help recruitment strategy and employee retention.

A well-constructed exit interview can provide learnings to help avoid costly recruiting mistakes in the future. Sometimes the employee leaving the organisation has not been the ideal fit for the business, and it will pay to decipher why, other times it can be a star employee who is leaving and it will benefit the business to note their reasons for doing so,” he said.

“The information gained in the exit interview may also provide valuable insights into the way the employee feels and the general state of play of the wider organisation.”

The information however is useless, Brunner said, is organisations do not have the mechanisms in place to ensure it is used effectively.

“Sometimes these opportunities can be wasted because organisations do not respond well to negative feedback, but it’s absolutely imperative that the feedback is taken seriously and if issues or opportunities to improve are identified, these should be acted on.”

Brunner recommends the following crucial points for conducting a successful exit interview:
  • Make sure a trained staff member carries out the interview and the right questions are being asked
  • Tailor the interview to suit the situation and departing individual, not just go through the motions
  • Be prepared
  • Be open to feedback and willing to make constructive changes if there are aspects of the business that have room for improvement

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