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12/3/2018: Are exit interviews a step too late?

Some companies list them as mandatory, while others just don't bother. Some HROs consider themselves specialists, while others only ask "what are the reasons for you leaving?".

The question though remains; are they a step too late for resigning employees?  

In order for an employee to leave, his/her emotional attachment with the company is gone. Whether they have indicated this before to their boss or openly complained about things they dislike to colleagues, on resignation day they are emotionally drained and often indifferent. To get to the breaking point, they have trained they mind to focus on the negative aspects of their work and to forget about its benefits.

Turnover is a costly problem, especially when the company has invested time and training resources for the person resigning. Even if compensation is listed as the purpose of resignation, and it's the most common excuse, there almost always lurk additional reasons. A happy employee will often disregard a slightly higher remuneration package, which is why retention initiatives and constant communication are so important.

But, can a company at least get some valuable feedback from them?

There is no doubt that, when conducted right, exit interviews may shed light on issues that bother more than the one employee. An experienced interviewer will disregard the bitter feelings expressed and focus on the important underlying issues, such as the lack of recognition, the personality clashes, the poor team cooperation or coordination, the unclear KPIs, and so on.

To be successful, an exit interview should really be called an exit conversation. An informal discussion, not going through a set of script questions, with someone other that the person's direct supervisor, and conducted with their consent and at a time of their choosing, preferably not on the day of resignation. This is not about confrontation and blaming, but rather about honest feedback which could lead to improvement suggestions.

As HR consultants we advise clients to perform exit interviews, and we'll gladly conduct them on their behalf.  Indeed, they may be a step too late for the company to retain the employee but, at the same time, they can be an invaluable source of culture insight.

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