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Don't Waste Exit Interviews: 11 Questions to Fuel Retention Strategies

Posted by Patrick Ball on 28 Oct 2014

You’re going to lose employees every now and then -- it's science.

OK. Maybe science is a stretch, but some level of turnover is an accepted part of doing business. What you don't have to accept, though, is letting professional uncouplings be in vain. img-article-11-exit-interview-questions-you-should-always-ask

Make your exit interviews into something more than a chance to communicate information about benefits and other off-boarding matters. Simply going through the motions is a lost opportunity to get feedback about your organization and find out why you’re losing employees (especially valuable ones). Getting the perspective of departing employees can help you identify areas of improvement within your company culture and develop retention strategies for the future.

Get the most out of your exit interviews by asking these questions.

  1. Why are you leaving? 
    Probably an obvious first question, but it’s an important one. “This gives the employee a zero-pressure opportunity to tell you if your compensation structure stinks, or if they just got everything they could from your organization and now want to grow their career elsewhere,” says Dominique Rodgers, director of human resources for Recapital Media

  2. What could we have done better?
    With this question, you’re looking for information on how to make your organization a better place to work. The responses will help you keep current employees happy and engaged. 

  3. What does your new company/position offer that made you decide to leave?
    The answer to this question can be telling -- not only in terms of who you’re competing with for talent, but also in terms of areas where your organization may be lacking in terms of benefits, flexibility, culture or professional development opportunities.

    Read more about Work Perks to Improve Employee Engagement

  4. Were you comfortable talking to your manager about work problems? 
    This question is helpful in evaluating a manager’s ability to interact effectively with his or her direct reports. The response can inform not only the process for replacing the exiting employee, but the professional development of his or her former manager, as well.

  5. What three things could your manager/the company do to improve? 
    Among the most common reasons employees leave jobs is feeling as though they’re not a good match with their manager or the company. Even if this isn’t the reason an employee is leaving, there’s always room for improvement.    

  6. Did you feel you were kept up to date on new developments and company policies? 
    Transparency is important for any good organization. Before they’re out the door, use this opportunity to find out whether your exiting employees felt like they were a valued part of the company, and how much transparency they felt there was from the management team. If one employee felt as though they were on the outside looking in, chances are there are more who feel the same way; knowing this can help you address the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.

    Find out why You Don't Have to Choose Between Productivity and Company Culture

  7. Were you given the tools to succeed at your job? 
    If employees aren’t set up for success, then they’re not going to stay engaged -- or with the company -- for very long. Finding out what you’re doing right or wrong in terms of supporting your employees in their roles will help you identify areas for improvement moving forward.

  8. What was your best or worst day on the job? 
    The answer to this question can provide useful insight into employee engagement – what your staff likes, what makes them feel successful or where you’re missing the mark.

  9. What did you like most about your job? And what would you change about it?
    If the job/position itself was the problem for your departing employee, then finding out their likes, dislikes and what they’d change about the role will help you avoid running into the same problem with his or her replacement. 

  10. If you had a friend looking for a job, would you recommend us? Why or why not? 
    “Bad word of mouth about an employer is hard to overcome,” says Rodgers. So if your employees are leaving with a sour taste in their mouths, it’s good to find out what you’re doing wrong so you can fix it.

  11. Are there any other unresolved issues or additional comments? 
    End with an open question. It’s kind of like opening Pandora’s box, but it’s better to hear it all at the exit interview rather than afterwards from office gossip – or worse, on a website reviewing employers, says Cara Panebianco, a former employment litigator and current HR specialist at TriNet.

But don’t let the exit interview be the only time you check in with your employees. If you’re serious about developing a retention strategy, then Panebianco suggests a more comprehensive approach to soliciting feedback, like surveys and lunch focus groups  in which “people are comfortable opening up not just when they’re leaving, but also when they’re staying.” 

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