HR & Employment Law Insights

Helping family businesses, start-ups, charities, social enterprises, and other growing or established businesses throughout the UK make sense of HR and Employment Law challenges.

An exit interview is an informal meeting with an outgoing employee before they leave. It gives your business an opportunity to obtain frank, honest feedback from an employee who has chosen to leave your employment.

For employees, exit interviews are one of the last deep conversational interactions they may have with your business and it can allow the employee the chance to give an open and honest review of their experience with your business.

Really effective exit interviews can give you a general insight into how you perform as a manager and they can teach you ways to repeat good experiences and avoid bad ones.

When both the employee and employer focus on learning and knowledge-sharing goals, exit interviews can also help working relationships end on a good note. Many times the feedback employees provide is positive, but when it’s not, it gives you a valuable insight on how to fix things for your existing employees, which may assist you with your employee retention too.

Another benefit to you and your business in conducting exit interviews, is that it provides you with one last opportunity to catch any lurking problems or issues with an employee who’s leaving, before they seek external advice or retribution via a tribunal.

Here we share with you some key points to help you carry out an effective exit interview:

Plan the Exit Interview

Schedule the exit interview for a mutually convenient time during the employee’s notice period. It is helpful to allow the employee as much notice as possible so they can consider what they may wish to discuss with you beforehand.

It is good practice, wherever possible, to meet face to face to carry out an exit interview. This will generally result in more productive conversations, and your employees may appreciate the gesture, which helps maintain a positive working relationship so that they leave on good terms. It will also allow you an opportunity to arrange the return of any of the businesses property they may have i.e. mobile telephone, laptop, keys, uniform etc.

You should also make sure that you are conducting the exit interview in private. Ensure that you find somewhere appropriate to enable your employee to speak to you in confidence, this might mean taking the meeting off site somewhere, so make sure you factor this in to your planning.

We appreciate that it may not always be possible to meet your employee face to face, e.g. if they live in a different part of the country etc. You can still carry out an exit interview, instead you could conduct it by phone.

Be Prepared with Questions

While you never want the meeting to appear scripted, there are some key questions you want to touch on when you conduct exit interviews. You should also have consistency with your questions, ensuring you are asking the same questions in every exit interview conducted, with every employee leaving. This enables you to compare responses and look for any common responses or themes, that may need your attention.

Some key questions to considering asking: • What influenced you to seek employment elsewhere? • What could we have done to prevent you from leaving? • What does the job you are going to offer you, that your job here did not? • What could be done to improve the situation that is causing you to leave? • What did you most enjoy about working here? • Is there anything that you didn’t like about working here? • Are there ideas that you have that you wish you could have implemented while you were here?

Getting feedback from the employee can help you to identify any problems that may be underlying in your business, that you are unaware of. Asking questions like these can help you make improvements going forward and potentially prevent losing future employees.

Share the Feedback

Whilst the exit interview is confidential, it is important for you to share any key points from the meeting with other senior staff. This is relevant where you may need to correct any issues that are identified from the exit interview, or roll out any changes.

Look for patterns in feedback from outgoing employees to identify any possible issues in your business. It is good practice to keep all exit interview forms on file so you can refer back to them to identify any common trends over time. If you do notice a trend discuss it with your senior managers and suggest some actions that can be taken to help avoid the issues and the risk of losing valuable employees.

For example, if you start hearing that employees are leaving because the job was not what they expected to do when hired, it may be an indicator that you need to audit your job descriptions or recruitment process. In a future blog we will be taking a look at how to write an effective job description, which can be a way to help with employee retention.

More serious issues that may arise in an exit interview, can include you finding that you are losing staff due to a particular manager, or another member of staff, and how they are treating other employees. It is really important to be able to effectively deal with this, as it’s these sort of things that can open your business up to risks and costs of Employment Tribunals, as well as developing a poor reputation. With our expertise we can guide you through situations such as these, help you to tackle issues head on and avoid unnecessary risks and costs to your business.