Employee Retention, Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Exit Interviews: Pros and Cons

Does your organization routinely conduct exit interviews with departing employees? Some employers swear this is a great way to garner knowledge about how to improve the organization and reduce future turnover. Others feel it’s unlikely to gain real insights because departing employees no longer have an incentive to help. Let’s take a look at some additional pros and cons.

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Exit Interviews: Pros

Here are some of the possible benefits of conducting exit interviews.

  • They could give HR the opportunity to gain information about the reasons behind employee turnover, which may help to reduce turnover in the future if the information is acted upon.
  • They may give insights into problems in the organization that were not otherwise obvious. For example, they may highlight problems with specific managers.
  • They may be a source of ideas for additional workplace training that could be useful.
  • When an employee is leaving, he or she may be in a position to open up about problems he or she was previously afraid to bring up. He or she no longer has a fear of reprisal, so it may be a chance to get more feedback than an employee would normally provide. Note: This may even uncover major problems, such as harassment or discrimination claims, that will need to be investigated.
  • Exit interviews can be a one-stop-shop of sorts; this time can be used for things beyond getting input. It can be a time for the employee to return employer-owned equipment. It can be a time for the employer to provide final paperwork (including the final paycheck, if required at this time) and information about benefit continuation.
  • The employer may be able to get information about the employee’s new job—and about the new benefits that were attractive enough to entice someone to leave. It may include new insights about what is on offer with other firms.
  • This can be a chance to ask employees any last-minute questions related to the job handover—which may allow for a smoother transition.
  • An exit interview may actually be a chance to have an open conversation about what could be changed to get the employee to stay or to consider coming back at a future date. Even if it only serves as a way for the employee to say his or her peace, it could give a more positive spin to the final days at the organization by having that opportunity.

Exit Interviews: Cons

Here are some of the drawbacks to exit interviews:

  • Employees may be fearful of burning bridges, which may mean they have little incentive to be completely open. In other words, the process may be a waste of time and not garner any real insights.
  • If the situation surrounding the employee’s departure is tense, the exit interview may be tense, too. It could be spreading tension and creating unnecessary difficulty without necessarily having a clear benefit.
  • Even if actionable information is found, if there’s no process in place to follow up and make changes, the point will be lost. Exit interviews need a formal structure and process to follow for improvements to occur in the coming days, weeks, and months. (And if there are revelations that require follow-up, like harassment allegations, for example, there will need to be resources allocated to do so immediately.)
  • An exit interview may be seen as “too little, too late” by an employee who is leaving, and it could engender frustration that it took leaving to be asked for an opinion. In other words, there’s a chance it could create or further ill will.
  • If word gets around that employees who leave are giving input that is never acted upon, that could decrease morale among the employees who stay.

It may be wise to consider conducting exit interviews selectively depending on the details that precipitate the employee’s departure. That may allow the company to get the benefits in instances where it is most likely to be a useful experience.