Effective Exit -Interview Strategies

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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Here are some tips that will help HR professionals use exit interviews to craft effective retention strategies:

1. Employees who are leaving are a great source of information. Use your exit interviews not only for finding out reasons for leaving, but also to:

* Gather ideas to improve productivity;

* Act as an early-warning risk-management tool for sexual harassment and violence issues;

* Measure the success of diversity initiatives; and

* Help rebound high performers.

2. Select your method -- and understand the advantages and drawbacks of each -- for administering exit interviews:

* Paper form (easy to administer, low cost, low participation of 25 percent to 35 percent, difficult to compile/track);

* Telephone (can probe, can track responses, time consuming, expensive);

* In-person (personal touch, can probe, difficult to get employees to critique, need to compile/track, time consuming); and

* Technology-based (high participation 65 percent-plus, more honest feedback, compiling automatic, easy reporting, reasonably priced).

3. Conduct exit interview as near to the termination date as possible. This will provide highest participation rate and the most honest feedback.

4. Set an initial goal of 65 percent for the exit-interview-participation rate. Once you reach that rate, begin to aim higher. The most optimized exit-interviewing processes reach as high as 85 percent to 90 percent.

5. If the company's participation rate is below 65 percent, look for bottlenecks in the exit-interview process. Are employees receiving the information? Do they have a private place to complete the exit interview? Review the exit-interview questions to make sure they aren't too confusing, psychological or personally invasive.

6. If the company sends out a paper copy of the exit interview, do not include it in the termination packet where it will get lost among the other important documents. Send it separately with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to facilitate its return.

7. Use both quantitative (rated) and qualitative (open-ended) questions. The quantitative questions will allow you to analyze the data. The qualitative questions will give meaning to the data.

8. Do not ask too few or too many questions. Too few and the employee may feel that you don't care; too many and the employees may not complete it.

9. Compile data from exit interviews into a spreadsheet, database or exit-interview management system to identify trends across the organization.

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10. Parse data by meaningful demographics to isolate the unique issues and opportunities for different departments, divisions, job groups, etc.

11. For large organizations, add additional demographics such as gender, race, age range, length of service and performance rating to further identify organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

12. Analyze the data to create retention strategies based on the issues identified.

13. Thank employees for their time and effort and all they have done for the organization during their employment.

Beth N. Carvin is CEO of Nobscot Corp., a global technology firm that focuses on key areas of employee retention and development. Beth has more than 20 years of experience in human resources, staffing, business management, sales and marketing. She is a nationally recognized expert on employee retention and exit interviews, and has assisted with exit-interviewing strategy for large, multinational companies, in every industry, and in more than 20 countries. Prior to co-founding Nobscot, Beth was the managing partner of Excel Employment, an HR staffing firm, and a human resources officer at BancWest Corp.  

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