Exit Interviews Are Stupid. Stop Doing Them.

exit-interview-293jt020112It’s a bit absurd if you think about it.

The employee who has chosen to leave is consulted as to the direction and performance of the team and organization.

Doesn’t really make a lot of sense, does it?

We assume that, freed from the need for self-preservation, these departing employees will shine a light on what’s really going on in the unit or practice. That these interviews, when compiled, will identify patterns or prevalent issues in need of reform.

Here’s an idea. How about asking your current employees?

Personnel on their way out may be honest in an exit interview, but often they are not. In fact I’ve seen many experts encourage employees NOT to be honest in exit interviews as it could still be professionally harmful.

Stop wasting your time with exit interviews. Instead, engage your current employees. Develop and install ways to get their feedback, ideas, opinions, and concerns. Here are 3 of my favorites:

  • Do stay interviews. Develop a set of stay interview questions that you use 1 to 2 times a year as part of a formal process. Ask direct reports about their fulfillment level at work. Ask them what would cause them to leave. Ask them what keeps them there. Ask them for suggestions on how to improve…anything.
  • 360 Feedback. A 360 feedback instrument invites subordinates, colleagues, supervisors, and business partners to evaluate and comment on the performance of a single employee. If the process is administered correctly they can be a valuable tool for all involved.
  • Town hall meetings: Once or twice a year set aside time for a wide-open forum where your team, department, or organization can sit down with leadership to share concerns, ask questions, and discuss challenges. Leadership must genuinely be interested in hearing and responding to this info while being prepared to discuss happenings, plans, and the purpose of the group.

When employees depart, thank them for their service, regardless of their performance. Wish them well on their next adventure. If you didn’t ask for their feedback while they were there, don’t bother asking as they depart. Instead, turn around and initiate that conversation with individual contributors who are there. Chances are, they’ll be honest too.


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