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Why exiting staff is HR’s most valuable weapon

It’s common to hear that we learn as much from our setbacks as we do our successes. For HR professionals, this perhaps means paying more attention when employees depart their ...

Why exiting staff is HR’s most valuable weapon

It’s common to hear that we learn as much from our setbacks as we do our successes. For HR professionals, this perhaps means paying more attention when employees depart their organisation.

Losing a key member of staff can indeed feel like a setback, especially if that person is a valued member of the team. While direct managers may be left reeling at the thought of all that experience walking out the door, it’s often left for HR to pick up the pieces and get on with the task of finding a replacement. This is the unfortunate reality if there is no succession plan in place and there are no appropriate replacements in-house.

However, HR should swing into action well before the valued employee walks out the door. If it’s a sudden and unexpected departure – and even if it’s not – it can be beneficial to do some investigating to get to the root cause of why they are leaving. Without this in-depth probing, nothing will change. No corrective action will be taken, and the same mistakes or issues will likely strike again down the track.

An exit survey and follow-up interview can be an invaluable process for organisations to gather insight from departing employees.

The purpose of an exit survey and interview is multi-faceted. You’ll learn why an employee is leaving the organisation, what the employee considers to be the organisation’s problem areas, and how the organisation can improve.

The benefits for HR and the organisation as a whole are extensive. For example:

  • They provide information about the reasons for employee turnover, which may help reduce this figure in the future if the information is impacted upon.
  • They may shed light on problem-areas that would otherwise go unchartered or unchecked. A classic example is identifying specific managers who may be causing disengagement and increased turnover. This may in turn highlight the need for additional training for those managers.
  • It may be your one opportunity to uncover deeper issues. Without fear of reprisal – because they are already walking out the door – the employee may feel empowered to reveal issues they were previously too afraid to speak up about. For example, discrimination or harassment issues.
  • It can serve as a way to gather information about the broader market, especially if the employee is willing to talk about why they are joining another organisation (benefits, remuneration, culture, etc.)
  • It can act as a last chance for the exiting employee to assist with job handover, and of course, to return any company-owned property.
  • Most critically, an exit interview is the prime opportunity to ask the exiting employee what could be done better. If those areas were to change, would that alter the employees’ view of the organisation? Would it make the workplace more desirable?
  • The chance to “clear the slate” can also set up a more positive way forward for both the employee and the organisation – keeping in mind that employer reputations matter today more than ever before, so it’s in your best interests to provide an opportunity that allows the exiting employee to “speak their mind” before spreading it to the rest of the world.

Most exit surveys will be handled digitally – this provides a consistent experience for employees and allows managers and HR to more easily collate and record the results. They can then be followed up with an in-person chat with HR. Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your exit surveys and interviews:

  • Conduct exit interviews will all departing employees, regardless of title or level, but allow employees to decline the interview if they wish.
  • Only conduct interviews with employees who are voluntarily leaving – no redundancies or terminations.
  • Emphasise that interviews are strictly confidential.
  • Send out a standardised survey, such as that offered by PeoplePulse, an ELMO Solution, ahead of time. Questions can cover remuneration, perks and benefits, office environment and culture, quality of management and leadership, communication, learning & development, and anything else that impacts an employees’ time in the workplace.
  • During the follow-up interview, ask open-ended questions instead of those requiring a simple “yes” or “no” response. For example, ask: “I wish the organisation would have…” or “The reason I would not return to your organisation is…”
  • The survey results and interview notes should be organised with key take-aways and trends. This can be fed through to senior management. Remember, without this feedback, nothing will change, and the whole purpose of an exit survey and interview is to improve. If word gets around that employees who leave are giving input that is never acted upon, it could decrease morale among the employees who stay.

One final tip: Don’t assume you know why the employee is leaving! Offer the survey and follow-up interview as platforms for them to speak openly – and with a bit of luck you’ll end up with a mutually beneficial parting of the ways.

The Staff Exit Survey Solutions provided by PeoplePulse, an ELMO Solution can help you determine the true reasons why people leave your organisation. They can be used to gather information from the exiting employee and identify ways company policy, practices and culture can be improved. To find out more, click here.