My research has shown that a person who resigns from your company is leaving for one of three main reasons:

 a new career opportunity,
 an unsolicited job offer or
 for a grievance that has not been handled correctly (usually a manager issue).

The last point on this list is the most frequent reason a valued employee moves on. There are other reasons of course, but these are tops. Whenever a person resigns from your company for voluntary reasons it’s normally a surprise and it can be expensive to replace a valuable team member. This article will outline three important steps for conducting exit interviews, a process which can reduce employee turnover and improve profitability at the same time.

Remember, it is imperative to your company’s bottom line that you retain valued employees, which requires a sound, world-class employee retention program.

Implementing exit interviews:  Start by explaining to your team that an exit interview will be conducted for any person who is leaving your company.  When done responsibly and respectfully, exit interviews send a strong message to the people working with you — it says that you and your company want to know why they are leaving.  An exit interview process will clarify for you and your firm why people are leaving and more often than not, give you valuable clues as to where improvements can be made from within your company.  This will also give each former employee a chance to tell you why they are leaving and this form of closure is both healthy and productive prior to their departure.

Coach Brian says:  I will gladly review your exit interview forms, looking for trends that might point to deeper problems or might help you see new opportunities.  Here’s what I look for:  the length of time a person works for your company before they voluntarily resign (unplanned turnover), the reasons why a person leaves your company, and the positions with the highest rate of turnover, what internal changes might prevent valuable employees from leaving, keeping in mind that the reasons given by line staff for staying are usually not what management believes them to be.

Conducting exit interviews:  The next step is to determine how exit interviews are going to be done in your company.  Normally, we find it best to conduct an exit interview AFTER the employee has departed and gotten settled in a new job — 2-4 weeks.  We recommend that  you meet with the departing person on their last day and conduct a notify them that a verbal exit interview will be conducted in the future for the reasons mentioned above.  This is the time to be kind to the transitioning employee and ask if there is anything you can do to help them.

The Coach says:  With my clients, exit interviews are conducted as a neutral third party with their employees within a few days (usually 1-4 weeks) of their departure.  I use my coaching, negotiation and mediation experience to set up a win-win dialogue and let them know that your company is interested – I mean REALLY interested in THEIR views, how things could have been better, and what it would have taken to retain them.  I permit to let them vent, talk about money issues, what I call ‘toxic’ managers, and then ask questions that guide them into revealing the  TRUE reason(s) they began looking for another position.  Each is a custom exit interview for each client and I provide a summary report of the findings.  From this report, I help you begin to address the internal areas that will either reduce unplanned employee turnover and make for a more productive and profitable organization.

Remember, if exit interviews are handled appropriately, especially when you incorporate a professionally trained third party to conduct them, you and your company will gain a wealth of knowledge to help grow, refine, polish and solidify the success of your organization.  In addition, a departing or recently departed employee will more than likely offer honest commentary about what is and what is not working in your company.  Are you ready to really listen to what they have to say?  More importantly, are you ready to take the action steps to resolve, fix, improve whatever is necessary?

Then ask these two questions:

  1. Why would a talented, energetic, hard working individual join this organization?
  2. Why would they leave?

Don’t for one second think that you already have the answers to these, if you haven’t asked.  You might become a far better leader if you confront the reality.