The Exit Interview: How can it benefit the entire organisation?

As the number of people open to new career opportunities continues to rise, the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ is fanning the flames of the ongoing war for talent even higher. Yet despite the rate of staff departures showing no sign of slowing down, many employers appear to be paying little (if any) attention to offboarding employees. This is both a mistake and a missed opportunity.

In his seminal book, What Colour Is Your Parachute? Richard Bolles posited 20 years ago that the average worker will likely change jobs up to seven times during their career. More recent research suggests that number is at least 10 times. Whatever the number, we can all agree that the days of people staying with the same company for their whole career have been consigned to the history books.

So, when employees opt to move on for pastures new, exit interviews can provide managers with an opportunity to learn and enhance their employer proposition and create long-term employee value. Indeed, in US consulting firms, exiting employees are treated with the same care and attention as those being onboarded. The reason, according to an article by Harvard Business Review, is because “former consultants become future clients.”

In a study undertaken by Cornell University, around one in three executives maintain connections with former colleagues when they leave the organisation – many of whom become advocates for the business. The research also found that 15 per cent of new hires come via referrals from within that network of connections or are ex-employees returning to the proverbial fold.

Clearly there is a major business benefit to be gained from conducting exit interviews, but what does one actually look like in practice? Key to this is understanding what you want to achieve from it and asking the right questions that will give you the answers.

For instance, you might want to know how your aspirations of becoming regarded as an employer of choice are shaping up. So, you could ask if the employee felt that their contribution to the organisation had been recognised? Did they receive the training and support needed to do the job to the best of their ability? In their eyes, was the culture of the organisation equitable, diverse, and inclusive?

Often a reason people leave an employer is because their expectations upon joining of what their working life would look like were different to the reality. To address this in the exit interview, outdoor clothing company Patagonia take a very effective approach. Rather than ask departing employees their reasons for wanting to leave, they ask ‘Why did you want to join us? What was the experience we delivered for you? Was that different or the same to what you expected?’

This novel approach opens the employee up and provides the employer with a better understanding as to whether their recruitment marketing and onboarding process is a true reflection of the practicalities of every day working life with the company.

We all want to believe that we provide an environment where everyone is given every opportunity to be their best self and feel psychological safe. But that isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of constant reflection and refining to get it as close to right as possible.

Indeed, not everyone in the business will feel confident and comfortable to voice their concerns and this is where the exit interview can be hugely important. However, people often find it easier to share anecdotal information about others they work for. Simply asking the soon-to-be ex-employee, ‘How do your colleagues feel about working here and their work in general?’ you may find the responses will provide invaluable insights that you can use to support workers more broadly.

As we have seen, offboarding employees is just as important as onboarding them. If you need further advice or support regarding any aspect of your recruiting process, feel free to get in touch with the Maranello team today.


Subscribe now to recieve our latest news and updates.

Make an Enquiry or send your CV

Please click below to forward your CV, ask a question or request a call back.