From both sides of the table, exit interviews are not a comfortable situation.
Supervisors may see the meeting with departing employees as a great setup for a complaint session or, worse, a serious confrontation.
Employees may feel its better to keep the negatives to themselves and avoid burning any bridges. After all, the employee may need to use the supervisor or company as a reference.
With all these reasons for skipping exit interviews, its a wonder they happen at all. But they do because organizations can gain a lot of valuable information that can help improve the workplace culture and reduce turnover.
Done correctly, exit interviews provide true, objective feedback. Plus, they can reveal serious problems (harassment, discrimination, etc.) that people kept secret because they didnt want to jeopardize their jobs.
Most experts recommend that an exit interview be held in a neutral place where the employee will feel comfortable to speak freely. A quiet conference room may be best, or some other private place.
Youll gain the most information by conducting the interview near (or on) the employees last day. Studies show people tend to be more objective and open during the morning hours.
While youll need to develop specific questions for each departing employee, some basic questions can be used in every interview.
If the employee resigns to take another job, its important to ask why the person decided to take the offer money, a promotion, a better work environment? Ask specifically what role salary played in the decision to leave. And ask what could the organization have done to prevent the employee from leaving.
If the person has been fired for performance reasons, ask if adequate training and support were offered, along with steady information about his or her progress and opportunities to improve. And ask what the organization could have done differently to get better results?
For all departing employees, here are suggestions for questions:
What factors led you to accept a job with us? Have your feelings changed since then?
How would you describe the level of training you received here?
How would you rate your job performance here?
How would you describe the following aspects of your employment here (pay, benefits, work environment and performance reviews, etc.)?
What did you enjoy about working here?
Are there any ways your manager could have been more supportive or helpful?
Hows morale in your department?
What are the problems you faced in your position?
Are there any changes that you would recommend in the way the position is structured?
Has this been a good place to work?
The employees responses may be very brief. If so, be prepared to probe and explore. Allow plenty of time to listen carefully, ask follow-up questions and take notes.
The bottom line: Proper and consistent use of exit interviews can help you identify problem areas in managing your employees and design possible solutions.