What Is an Employee Exit Interview?
The classic exit interview happens when an employee has decided to quit and has given notice. It's a one-on-one meeting between the exiting employee and an HR manager, or leader. It’s a chance for HR to explain the separation agreement, go over any severance pay and unused sick time, and a time to ask questions about why they are leaving.
Exit interviews are famous for being awkward, impersonal, and a time for disgruntled employees to vent. But when done the right way, and by asking the right questions, exit interviews can be incredibly insightful in understanding what needs to change in your organization.
Why Are Employee Exit Interviews Important?
The exit interview is a goldmine of information that can unveil what your company culture is really like from your employee’s perspective. They can provide insight like where your company is missing the bar with employees or shed light on any managerial or team personnel issues that influence the employee experience.
When there is a problem between an employee and a manager that stems from the manager’s poor leadership or lack of empathy, upper management may never know until they ask the question during the offboarding process. Or, let's say the competitor down the street is offering better childcare benefits—your company might never know if it weren’t for the questions asked in employee exit interviews. To sum it up - an exit interview is a time to find out how big the gap is between what employees want and how things are running and what you are offering, and how management is conducting themselves.
When Should You Have an Employee Exit Interview?
An exit interview should happen every time there is a separation between an employee and an employer. The trick is to have the discussion after the heat of emotions leave and before the employee becomes disengaged. As the HR manager, you want the employee to answer the questions honestly and openly, so timing is key.
Depending on the exit, it may be best to wait a few weeks before scheduling an exit interview. In the case of termination or management exit, it’s important to have a neutral third party conduct the exit interview in order to maintain legal compliance and objectivity.
That said, you don’t have to have an employee exit interview before a team member heads out the door for good. Some companies even wait a few months post-employment to have the exit interview in a much more relaxed atmosphere. By this time, the employee has moved on and can answer the questions a little more objectively (and honestly). If you're confident the employee will remain receptive and willing to engage, then, a couple of weeks or months is fine.
If you feel like a particular employee exit interview is necessary, and the employee refuses to participate, document their refusal in writing.
How to Conduct an Exit Interview
How to conduct the exit interview is up to you and your company's protocol. You might want to have every employee's exit interview face-to-face to make it more personal. Or you might want to send a survey to the former team member once all the dust of their departure has settled. The choice is yours.
Should Exit Interviews Be Confidential?
Exit interviews should be kept confidential, but sharing high-level learnings with your leadership team is important. During the interview, let the employee know how you will share the exit interview results with the leadership.
Who Does an Employee Exit Interview?
While HR is typically responsible for conducting exit interviews, sometimes it may be someone else in a leadership role or management position. But, no matter who it is, the information still needs to be relayed to company leadership. This is essential so that they are clued in on the main causes of employee retention and turnover in their organization.