Exit Interviews

Accounts has been haemorrhaging people and nobody knows why. Apart from the damaging effect on morale and productivity, it's costing a fortune to recruit new blood. It's time to ask staff why they're leaving.

by Alexander Garrett

Publicise it Telling everybody that you will conduct exit interviews is a positive move. 'It sends out a clear message to the workforce that you are a listening organisation,' says Tracey Rimmer, a director of Hays HR Personnel.

Target all leavers Don't ignore employees that you are happy to see leaving, says Steve Newhall, managing director of HR consultants DDI. 'There should be no such thing as "wanted" attrition. Either you chose the wrong person or you've done something to make them not perform.' Offer refuseniks a questionnaire, or combine the interview with housekeeping tasks such as handing in a laptop and handing out the P45.

Try to keep them 'If you want to retain somebody, then act straight away,' says Peter Wallum, European partner with Mercer HR Consulting.

By their final week, it will be too late to change their mind. Conduct an early meeting to see if they can be turned round, and keep the exit interview separate.

Choose a neutral Don't let the line manager do the interview as they may be the problem. 'It is best if done by Human Resources,' says CIPD adviser Frances Wilson. 'If the line manager is present, the employee may be reluctant to talk openly.'

Set rules of engagement Make it clear whether the interview is confidential and what will happen to feedback given.

Keep it structured The objective is to find out why an employee is leaving.

Explore their perceptions of the organisation to find the underlying reasons.

'You can relate what you learn in the exit interview back to the recruitment process, career development, performance measurement and succession planning,' says Rimmer.

What are they leaving for? It's vital to know where your employee is going: it may be a competitor or a client. And find out what's on offer to them. 'We had an engineering client that was losing people,' says Wallum. 'The boss wanted to hike salaries, but we found people were leaving because they didn't have decent computers.'

Listen, don't react An exit interview could be an opportunity for an employee to vent their spleen. 'Remain calm and objective,' says Wilson.

Avoid a slanging match.

Act on the data 'Most organisations use the data from exit interviews to look for trends,' says Newhall. But there's nothing to stop you taking immediate action if a specific issue is raised.

Do say: 'We'd value feedback on your time here and your reason for leaving.'

Don't say: 'I'm going to give the bugger a good grilling before he collects his P45 and tell him we're glad to see the back of him.'

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