DIY Management: How to conduct an effective exit interview

Done right, an exit interview can make your business better

D-I-Y Management: Done right, an exit interview can make your business better. Joanne Klein, Goldcorp vice-president, people, and Clear HR principal consultant Cissy Pau tell us how to elicit constructive feedback from departing employees

1. Ask the right way

Ask open-ended questions rather than ones that elicit yes or no answers, says Pau. Use the same questions for all exit interviews to ensure consistency. “You can ask the same question of 20 people, and they’ll all give you a slightly different answer, but I think that there’s value in that,” says Klein. “Whereas if you’re doing closed questions and it’s a yes/no, it’s really hard to do anything with that.”

2. Look for trends

Gathering feedback from exit interviews is a great way to identify trends, patterns and themes from departing employees, says Pau. “Employees often have great ideas about things we could do differently, which we love to hear, but sometimes there is just a genuine shift in employee preference,” says Klein. “It’s not been a significant issue, but it’s something that’s bubbling, and if it’s not addressed it could become one.”

3. Let’s be honest

Klein finds that employees generally appreciate the opportunity to give feedback: “They will likely do it in a diplomatic manner, but you could argue that that is just being professional.” Says Pau: “When there’s an intermediary or middle person, they’re sometimes more open. We will often ask, ‘Can we relay this back to the company or would you be more comfortable if we aggregate it with other data?’ Most of the time, they’re very comfortable because it’s different coming from us than from them.”

4. Follow through

An exit interview gives you good insights into improvement opportunities within your organization, says Klein. “This can’t just be a check in the box compliance piece. We’re investing the time and effort because we genuinely want to know the feedback.” Consider doing a “stay interview” or an employee satisfaction survey with remaining staff to determine whether feedback from exit interviews reflects the views of the people who are still there, says Pau.

5. Say thank you

“Thank the employee for their honesty and feedback, and commit to using the information provided to improve your workplace,” says Pau. “Wish your employee success in his or her new endeavour.” Says Klein: “I always thank them for their honesty, because no matter how professional and diplomatic you are, it takes courage. We always thank them for that because it’s what makes us better.”