How do you say goodbye?
Parting ways with employees can be a tricky, even emotional affair. Depending on the context, it can feel like the cleanest thing is to limit communication and move forward with a replacement hire.
However, an employee exit presents a golden opportunity to learn about your company, and in the longer term improve your retention and employee experience.
The way you go about saying farewell says a lot about your company culture, and the effort you make to create a happy and healthy environment for everyone.
These days, people leave companies for all sorts of reasons, and more often than not it’s possible for everyone to have a positive leaving experience. As an HR leader, that means it’s key to carefully consider your offboarding process and plan in an employee exit interview.
Getting it right will give you highly specific insights that will allow you to reinforce the holistic approach you take to employee satisfaction and help you maintain a happy relationship with leavers who may, some day, return. So it’s well worth preparing questions and a structure that will make for the most productive and valuable meeting possible.
This employee exit interview template will take you through the main reasons for carrying out an interview, what to watch out for, and the main questions you should consider to keep things on the right track.
Why do exit interviews matter?
Regardless of the reason behind an employee’s departure—and whether they resigned or were let go—exit interviews are an important part of a truly effective HR process.
They’re a key step in offboarding and give an employee a positive experience with your company. They provide a unique setting in which the employee is more likely to not only feel able to share their true thoughts, but also to feel that the company genuinely cares about their opinions, suggestions, and insights.
Exit interviews can be hugely revealing, and can also play a key role in creating a happy and healthy working environment for all of your people.
Ultimately, they’re part of how you create a company culture that supports a positive employee experience and an open culture of feedback. You can use the things you learn to improve relationships within existing teams and address unresolved issues—improving happiness and reducing your turnover.
Equally, a positive employee experience has a strategic impact across your business. For example, with the current increase in the hiring rate of boomerang employees, parting ways on positive terms in which ex-employees felt listened to and cared for can have a significant impact on their likelihood of returning.
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What can an exit interview tell you?
Clearly, exit interviews are a great opportunity to establish a positive post-employment relationship and to contribute to a happier work environment for everyone. But it’s a two-way street, and they can also give you a vast amount of honest, useful, and informed feedback that can directly enhance your business.
It is a unique opportunity to collect candid feedback, so it’s best to approach it as a significant learning opportunity, rather than as just another element to mark as complete on the checklist. In all likelihood, you’ll uncover things which might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
What kind of things can you learn from an exit interview?
- Specifics about what the employee’s job entails. This is especially useful if you discover that it differs from how their role is currently defined, helping you to create a more accurate and specific job description when recruiting a replacement.
- Opportunities for future improvements. A leaver’s candid suggestions and criticisms are a great source of information to help you identify areas of friction that you can address to increase happiness in the workplace and improve your retention in the future.
- Issues with systems or other members of staff. In pursuit of making your operations as efficient as possible, exit interviews can help uncover bottlenecks or issues deep within your organization.
- The most attractive benefits of the job, or your company. Take the positive selling points you discover and feed them into future recruitment drives to help attract and retain top talent.
What should the ideal exit interview cover?
Here are some of the main areas to consider when planning your exit interview:
- Cover the basics. From time to time, employees might come to exit interviews with a clear issue they’d like to discuss with you. While that’s helpful to hear about, it can quickly railroad your planned conversation and take time away from other issues. Keeping a checklist of the basic topics—and areas of conversation—to hand is a great way of making sure you cover all the bases.
- Discuss key relationships. Departing employees have first-hand experience of working alongside team members and with direct managers. An exit interview is one of the only times they’ll feel comfortable giving frank and honest feedback on their strengths and weaknesses, and the specific dynamics of the team.
- Reasons for leaving. Think about long-term, structural issues such as career progression, a change of environment and pay structure, as well as short-term triggers, such as specific projects, a change in team make-up, and any specific issues that might have occurred.
- Perks, benefits, and opportunities they feel are missing. In a competitive hiring environment, keeping track of the specific benefits others may be offering is key to staying in the race.
Top tip: To gather the most useful data, stick to a consistent format across all of your exit interviews. This protects anonymity, keeps things fair, and helps you see correlating patterns.
Finally, if more serious information comes to light during the exit interview that warrants immediate further action, be sure to establish whether or not you can follow up with the ex-employee. This will demonstrate your willingness to address an issue and determination to resolve it happily.
How can you set up your exit interview for success?
Productive exit interviews aren’t only about the questions you ask and the way in which you steer the conversation. The format and setup of the offboarding process can also heavily influence how much the employee in question is willing to share.
People have different comfort levels when it comes to face-to-face HR meetings, so it’s worth considering offering a range of interview formats for the employee to choose from. You might for instance offer a written form as an alternative, or a video or phone interview in lieu of an in-person meeting.
Some employees will also feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts once their term of employment has expired, as this can lift their confidence in the anonymity of the process.
Also, sending over the questions in advance can give the employee a chance to prepare and understand which areas you’d like to cover. That way, you’re likely to get deeper insights rather than off-the-cuff answers.
However you go about it, considering how to create a comfortable environment will help employees tell you what they really think—and give you the most useful information possible.
Your employee exit interview template
Here’s your printable exit interview template that you can use as a baseline for creating your own exit interview strategy.
This structure is intended to help you keep the conversation focused and productive while creating a positive employee experience. It’s broken up into five sections:
- Reasons for leaving
- Specifics of the job
- Company culture and work environment
- Technology and access
- Further questions
Exit interviews and your future success
At the end of the day, an exit interview is likely to be the last direct experience that employees have of your company. So getting it right and making sure they feel heard and respected goes a long way towards leaving them with a positive overall impression.
By adapting our exit interview questions template and preparing in advance, you can be sure to have productive meetings that contribute to a positive and amicable parting. You’ll reap the rewards of highly valuable feedback on what it’s like to work for your company, and your ex-employees will carry their fond memories into conversations with friends, relatives, and future colleagues alike.
When deeply rooted in your company culture, a productive exit interview might even turn out not to be an ending after all, but merely the start of a new relationship that culminates in the employee’s eventual return.
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