Why You Need to Be Doing Exit Interviews

How many jobs have you quit over your lifetime? What would you have said if you had been asked about your reasons for leaving?

Chances are, you had lots of valuable insight that could have helped your former employer, if they cared to ask. The brave ones always ask, because they know how much they can learn from an employee who is no longer afraid to say exactly what they didn’t like about the job. OK, so not everyone is going to be totally honest–we’re all told to be nice and not burn bridges, no matter how much we want to say “take this job and shove it”.
As an employer, it’s important to encourage staff who are leaving to be as open and clear as possible about why they no longer want to work with you. If you want to have any hope of retaining loyal, skilled, hard-working employees in the future, you have to find out why people are leaving you.

Yes, they might have simply found a more fitting opportunity for their needs, or a better-paying one, or they’re pregnant or moving or they won the lottery. You can’t do anything about those reasons, nor should you want to. Be happy for those who are moving on for positive reasons. Hopefully, if you are doing a great job as a leader, you played some role in helping them develop the skills they needed to get that next dream job. (And if they’re leaving because they won the lottery, just hope they remember your contribution then too!)

You need to find out if someone is leaving because:
  • They feel micromanaged, and don’t have a sense of autonomy
  • They aren’t creatively challenged or stimulated
  • They don’t have any fun at work
  • They have unmanageable conflicts with you or other employees
  • They feel your business is disorganized and poorly managed
  • They’re overworked and stressed out
  • They don’t feel recognized or appreciated

It will probably hurt to hear those things, yet you absolutely need to know about them so you can address what you are doing as a leader. Yes, the employee might be seeing things that aren’t actually there. They might be overly sensitive. They might simply dislike your expectation that they actually have to work to earn their paycheque. But what if they’re right? What if the problem really is with your management style, your business, or with other staff members?

Of course, I advocate maintaining regular check-ins with your staff so you can uncover any issues before they become so big people are willing to quit over them. But you need to be open to hearing a perspective that you may not have otherwise tuned into on your own, and have a good heart-to-heart with everyone who leaves. At the very least, this will give you an opportunity to apologize for anything you could have done better, and get their feedback on how to change things going forward. Not only does this help you improve your business and keep the rest of your staff happy, it also allows your departing employee to feel heard, understood, and appreciated. It is your inherent responsibility as a leader and key decision maker in your business to put your ego aside and be willing to take responsibility for making your business the best it can be.

15 Responses to Why You Need to Be Doing Exit Interviews
  1. Jayne Kopp
    September 20, 2011 | 3:29 pm

    HI Natalie, those are great pieces of advice for business owners or managers.

    I had a business for over 15 years. Most of the staff were ‘lifers’ but there were one or two who left. I never really needed the opportunity personally to ask ‘why’ because it was either due to retirement, moving or pregnancy!

    With that said, I also used to have a ‘job’ where many people did come and go. I am quite positive that if the management had asked the reasons, they would have heard a thing or two that may )(or may not) have opened their eyes to the opportunities for improvement!

    Jayne Kopp recently posted..Is Your Online Business Failing? Or, Could it be That You’re Just Not…My Profile

    • admin
      September 21, 2011 | 3:29 pm

      Sounds like you were a great boss, Jayne!

      And yes, I’m certain you would have been able to give your former employer some very useful feedback. Too bad they never asked :)

  2. Radu
    September 21, 2011 | 7:50 am

    Hi Natalie,
    Important points here…as an employer you need to develop some strong leadership traits like listening,thinking creative,knowing how to motivate their stuff and also treat everything and everyone with a positive attitude.
    Your points are available for a network marketer who has a team as well.

    Thanks for sharing your insights:)
    All the best,
    Radu recently posted..The blueprint on how to BE an Alpha EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • admin
      September 21, 2011 | 3:30 pm

      Thank you, Radu – and yes, I absolutely believe exit interviews are essential for any employer, even when you have a virtual team you only communicate with via email!

  3. Hi Natalie,

    I remember getting an exit interview from one job that I quit, and it was obvious why I was quitting. It was an insurance and securities sales job that had a pay structure such that the last week I worked there, I was presented with a bill for the pleasure of working for eighty hours a week! I was told how much of a gentleman I was…but I don’t think I ever paid the bill. :)

    Lou Barba@informationhighwaycardandgiftshop.com recently posted..Lady Dowdy “Buys the Farm”My Profile

    • admin
      September 21, 2011 | 3:31 pm

      Wow! Paying a company to work for them… never heard of that management plan :) Glad you never paid the bill!

    • Easther Sudharta
      September 23, 2011 | 7:13 am

      I can’t believe that you weren’t paid for the eighty hours you worked for, and yet you have to pay them for your service! That’s something very new to me!
      Easther Sudharta recently posted..10 of the Best Blog Performance Gameplan Of All TimeMy Profile

  4. Catarina Alexon
    September 21, 2011 | 9:04 am

    Agree with you Natalie. Honestly if employees are leaving for the reason you state it’s because they are being managed and not lead. And that unfortunately is frequently the case, even if those managers consider themselves to be leaders.:-)

    Good advice for business owners! And one more, don’t hire managers but people with leadership qualities.
    Catarina Alexon recently posted..Do you concur with Joseph Stiglitz on market fundamentalism?My Profile

    • admin
      September 21, 2011 | 3:34 pm

      Couldn’t agree more, Catarina – I actually hire all of my staff based on leadership qualities!

  5. David Epperson
    September 22, 2011 | 7:11 am

    This is something most companies fail to do, and yet it is an integral part of what we can call quality assurance in the office.
    Doing exit interviews gives the company a note on what needs to be improved, and how their staff handles the stress levels or the workload even.
    David Epperson
    Improve Blog Ranking
    David Epperson recently posted..How Important is Blog Ranking?My Profile

    • admin
      September 25, 2011 | 10:27 am

      Exactly my thoughts, David – thank you.

  6. Stacy
    September 22, 2011 | 4:52 pm

    Hi Natalie,

    I agree that having an exit interview is necessary for a business owner. I do not have any employees in my business but I can definitely see the value in it. I do have long term clients and I can see the value in using an exit interview with them for good feedback.

    Stacy recently posted..Drop That Complaining Habit Off A CliffMy Profile

    • admin
      September 25, 2011 | 10:27 am

      Great point, Stacey – exit interviews with clients is a fantastic idea. Get testimonials, and learn where you have room for improvement!

  7. Heather Stephens
    September 26, 2011 | 4:47 am

    Hi Natalie,

    I just left a job without an exit interview. I would have loved a chance to give them some suggestions that would have made me want to stay, however the opportunistic didn’t arise and I didn’t create one. I was excited to be moving forward instead.

    I do believe that we can get so much information of value from our customer’s returns, surveys, and it makes sense that an exit interview would be just as valuable.

    Heather Stephens recently posted..Creative Writing Made Easy: Networking Times ArticleMy Profile

    • admin
      October 11, 2011 | 10:21 pm

      Hi Heather – too bad for the company you left! They missed a great opportunity for improvement. I can totally understand why you were excited to be moving on from a place that didn’t value your input upon leaving.

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