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‘Exit interview’… it’s a phrase that can sometimes send a chill down both an employee’s and an HR Manager’s spine. But actually the exit interview is of tremendous value to both parties… as long as the right questions are asked.

First things first, though… What is an exit interview?

“Exit interviews are interviews conducted with departing employees, just before they leave. From the employer’s perspective, the primary aim of the exit interview is to learn reasons for the person’s departure, on the basis that criticism is a helpful driver for organizational improvement.” www.businessballs.com.

Of course, there are always legal and HR matters to be considered when conducting an exit interview, but we’re assuming for the purposes of this article that you already have those covered. What we’re suggesting in addition, therefore, is that it’s also worth asking yourself… what else do I really want to get out of this? Here are four great questions that could provide your organisation with invaluable feedback from the coal face…

How did the job match your expectations?

Note – we’ve kept the question open here. It’s not asking, ‘Did the job match your expectations?’, it’s asking how did it meet them. You’ve probably taken a deep breath reading that… because, yes, it’s likely to get to the nub of things. You’re not enquiring about the nature of the work, you’re probing into whether the nature of that work was accurately depicted in the first place. And why should that be a concern? Well, let’s face it, finding the right candidate for a role is tough, and it can be tempting to do too much of a sales pitch when initially recruiting. And that can be a costly mistake. So the response you’ll get to this question may well give you the reality check you need.

Did the work you were doing align with your own personal goals and interests?

Often (and understandably) organisations encourage employees to go through a goal setting process on a regular basis. However, the focus of these sessions tends to be with regard to business or professional development, which in turn then directly links to the company’s objectives. Now of course that’s of value. However, an employee doesn’t exist in a work bubble during work hours. There is a bigger life picture constantly sitting behind every decision they make. Ensuring that an organisation taps into personal, as well as professional, values and interests is only going to help engage an employee in a role further, and thus hopefully retain them in the organisation for longer. The answers to this question will help you work out a strategy to achieve this in the future.

Did you have both the tools and resources you needed to do your job effectively?

This is a tough question actually. We all know some roles require an employee to have a high degree of creative thinking, determination and resilience to get things done… despite known issues and resource shortfalls. But an organisation that has the right systems in place (operationally, not just IT wise) will only ever be helping their employees to deliver outstanding work. Asking this question will help you to understand where future investment in resources etc. could focus, and this can be invaluable for future growth. In the long run, it’s a win/win outcome.

As an employer, would you recommend us to a friend?

It’s true that this may well elicit a simple yes or no answer. But it can obviously be followed up with a, ‘Why?’. It’s good to find out whether it’s the role that’s a problem, or the organisation in general. An ambitious individual who is simply taking the next step in their career is far more likely to remain a positive influence on the outside than one who is aggrieved overall. You’ll probably already be aware of where they sit on this continuum by the time you’re interviewing them, but the question may still extract some useful nuggets.

In conclusion, it has to be said that there are times when an employee leaving is to everyone’s satisfaction, and there are times when it’s not. Either way, though, asking the right questions at the exit interview can only be of benefit to both your organisation and the person who’s heading to pastures new.

If you need some help with setting up an exit interview questionnaire and system contact Alan on 07446 207784

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