Let’s Have a Conversation – Exit Interviews

This is the third and last in a series of posts about some of my favorite conversations to have – stay, skip, and exit interviews.

Conversations don’t just magically happen on their own. They especially don’t magically happen upwards. If you want to know what’s going on with your front-line and mid-level employees, you have to ask them. Directly, repeatedly, and in a few different ways.

This is why I advocate for stay, skip, and exit interviews. Each of them will bring up different insights from different perspectives. All of them are good to do on a regular basis. I think of them as preventative care.

An exit interview is a meeting with an employee who has turned in their notice and is on their way out. By the time you’re having an exit interview with somebody, you know you’re not going to retain them. So why bother?

The reasons that employees depart rarely occur in a vacuum. Their perspectives and experiences are likely shared by at least a few others on the team. And indeed, I’ve found you can often draw a straight line between what themes come up in stay interviews and what themes come up in exit interviews. Not surprisingly, exit interviews tend to have a bit more candor.

What is key for exit interviews is that they shouldn’t be conducted by anybody in the employee’s management chain. Departing employees are keenly aware that at some point down the road they’ll need a reference from their manager. While managers can and should talk with departing employees about their reasons for leaving, a formal exit interview should be conducted by HR or somebody in leadership.

So on or around somebody’s last day, be sure to take the time to sit down with them. Ask about their new role to understand what they’re moving towards. Ask about their experience with your company to understand what they’re moving away from. And then use that information to continually improve.

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