Exit Interviews... Is ignorance bliss?

Exit Interviews... Is ignorance bliss?

Publish Date: 2020-11-17

Author: Victoria Bond

No matter how engaged your team is, you can be sure that occasionally people will leave. But just as you wouldn't employ a person without interviewing them, its probably not a good idea to let a person leave your business without interviewing them either. Why? Lets give this some thought...

Everyone that came to work for you did so for a reason. Maybe for the money, for the job, for the brand or for the leadership team. When you hired them both parties felt good about the decision, but over time the employee started to think differently and made a decision to move on.

So what changed? When did it change? Why did it change? How can you get these answers?


The Exit Interview

Most businesses don't put enough value on the exit interview. They decide that the employee wasn’t a good fit anymore and dismiss feedback in favour of recruitment. But understanding an employee's motivation for leaving could unlock some really good insight on how to improve your business and/or engage better with your employees. It could also stop you wasting a lot of time and money on expensive recruitment exercises.

Ask yourself the following;

  1. Do you conduct exist interviews in your business? If yes, what value do you place on the information you get back? If no, why not? The person is leaving anyway. You might just learn something!
  2. What questions do you ask? Are they helpful in extracting the information you want from the existing employee?
  3. What do you do with the information afterwards? Do you feed the trends and learnings from your leaver process into your employee engagement plans and activity?


Lasting impressions 

Exit interviews conducted at the time of leaving tend to be polarised. Typically those willing to participate have some intense opinions they want to share, or they just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Either way, you’re probably not going to get the quality insight and information you are hoping for. 

But once the employee have been out of the organisation for a few months they form their lasting impressions. These are the real opinions and insights that have stayed with them - the ones they are likely to share with others, good or bad. This is the contribution they’ll be making to your employer brand if anyone asks their opinion on your business. 

So wouldn’t you like to know what they are saying? Positive feedback could help you recruit. Negative can add to your engagement plan to address and improve retention. 



3 months in and your leaver is likely to be established in their new job. They are making comparisons, forming opinions and making recommendations. This can be really powerful information about what are they are really loving about their new employer. 

But, now they have a benchmark what do they miss about working in your business? What is the new company getting right that you didn’t? Do they have any recommendations for you to help you improve? 

3 months after they’ve left and the answers to these questions now have additional useful context for your business. 


Maintaining relationships 

Getting back in touch with an employee after they’ve left to make them feel heard, valued and respected one more time can help to establish a positive ongoing relationship. You create a highly valuable brand ambassador for your business!

This person will promote your company and help smooth the path for new colleagues to find you. If they regret their decision, it could keep the door open for a return in the future too!


How to do it

We suggest you ask permission to contact the employee again as part of the leaver process. Explain why you’d like to and get an email address to send an online survey too. Then send out a survey at the 3 month mark. Make sure it's short and won't put them off.

For this kind of survey, you may find that allowing them to write their own responses (qualitative data), rather than rating you on a scale (quantitive data), is more useful and effective. Don’t be concerned if you don’t get a response, some people leave and never look back, but those that do could help you be better leaders in the future and prevent the same mistakes happening again.

And as with any data you receive, don’t waste it! You’ve gone to the effort of collecting it, so make sure it has the impact it deserves. 

So double-down on collecting insight from your leavers by enhancing and extending your exit interview process. Collecting data and insight 3 months after an employee has left your business, offers a clearer picture of what went wrong, what went right and where improvements can be made. 

The feedback you obtain could be vital in helping you attract and retain better employees and put a better Employee Engagement framework in place. It could prevent the next good person leaving and help you build an outstanding company culture.


For help and support with your exit interview framework, contact Victoria Bond at Ten Space - victoria@tenspace.co.uk

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