“We Need to Talk” – 6 Reasons Why You Should Conduct Exit Interviews

by Sabine Steiner in — April 2021
When you hear “we need to talk”, you probably know what is coming. A discussion that is a prelude to serious change is about to begin. It’s the first thing that should spring to mind for an HR manager within the scope of exit management once a termination has been announced. Here we reveal 6 reasons why a professional exit interview makes absolute sense.

Exit interviews are THE tool for getting honest feedback from employees. For that reason alone an exit interview ought to be a fixed part of the offboarding process. The employee is asked the reasons for the termination and about subjective impressions and suggestions for improvement. Ideally, the interviewer follows a structured guide with standardised questions and takes notes. The employee should not fill out the questionnaire themselves.


6 Reasons Why You Should Conduct Exit Interviews

1. An Unvarnished Look at the Truth

Employees who are leaving give honest feedback because they have nothing more to lose. These truths offer deep insights into the company and leadership culture.

2. Image Booster

The exit interview is often the last chance for a (hopefully) conciliatory ending. You prove your ability to accept criticism, show openness to change and improvement, and give a human face to the company. You listen, show understanding, and express your appreciation. That is good for your employer brand.

3. How Am I Doing? What Are Others Up To?

Talk to your colleague about their plans for the future. Perhaps you will learn something about your peers on the marketplace and learn whether you are on the right path.

4. Change Instead of Stagnation

An analysis of the exit interviews gives you the opportunity to come up with ways to improve your importance. Use this as an opportunity for change.

5. Increase employee satisfaction and loyalty

6. Reduce employee fluctuation

Topics You Should Cover in Exit Interviews

  • Reason for termination: If you hear the same answer multiple times, you probably have a problem on your hands and an urgent need to make changes.
  • HR and onboarding process: It makes sense to take a look at standardised processes regularly and adapt them if need be.
  • Workplace climate, company culture, and management conduct: Do we measure up to the standards we claim to have? An honest look from the inside reveals the truth.

Who, When, How & Where: Prerequisites for an Exit Interview

One on one conversation: Ideally, the interview should take place between the employee and a neutral colleague (from the HR department).

The timing: The interview should take place during one of the employee’s last workdays. In the best case, you can hand over the official reference, too.

The briefing: Prepare your colleague for the conversation. Explain the goal and what you will discuss. Emphasize the open and honest character of the discussion by stating that you want to hear their personal opinion.

At my place or yours: Neither – find a neutral place for the interview. The best location is a (meeting) room with a comfortable atmosphere.

Please Don’t: The Absolute No-Gos for Exit Interviews

Inviting the manager: Neither the direct nor the indirect manager should be at the exit interview unless you don’t care about getting honest feedback.

Breaching confidentiality: The results ought to stay in the HR department and be analysed there. The management should only receive anonymised, summarised reports.

Comment or assess the feedback: Let the employee speak without commenting on or assessing the statements. Remain in a neutral position and don’t express an opinion.

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