All jobs end eventually. Some relationships last for years, while others end sooner—often on good terms, like when an employee is promoted or changes career paths. Whatever the reason that employment relationships end, employers have an opportunity to learn from it and improve future engagements through an exit interview.

Taking full advantage of an exit interview means coming prepared with good questions and an openness to listen.

Employee feedback can guide your company’s tactics toward change and business optimization. Done right, exit interviews are the perfect opportunity for your departing employees to provide you with:

  • Valuable insight into potential problems with your company’s operations
  • Confirmation of the things your company is doing right
  • Knowledge gained during their tenure to pass on to the next employee and team

When should you conduct an exit interview?

Some would say the best time to conduct an employee exit interview is after an announcement is made and before an employee departs. The trick is to find the sweet spot after emotions have dissipated and before the team member has disengaged.

Harvard Business Review shares, “Another effective approach is to wait until after the employee has left the company.” According to a leader in the auto industry, “We typically do the exit interview about a month later, and it’s much more relaxed.”

Whenever you choose to conduct the exit interview, you’ll want it to occur as part of your offboarding process. It might take some practice to find the best type of exit interview for your organization. But conducting one is better than not.

Why exit interviews are important

Exit interviews provide an internal view of your everyday processes, team morale, management solutions, and culture. Their purpose is to evaluate the overall employee experience within your company and identify ways to improve retention and employee engagement.

Improve employee retention

According to HBR, “The greater goal for any company is to retain valued employees.” Long-term employees are more productive and efficient. Losing your most valued performers affects more than productivity and efficiency. The greater risk is losing a competitive advantage in your industry.

If you want your company to hold an advantage over its competitors, you’ll want to improve retention. Research from HBR shows that high turnover can predict low performance, meaning you can predictably outperform the competition if you maintain a lower turnover rate.

Exit interviews are moments to get honest feedback. They can help you and your company identify operational problems and boost employee engagement.

Attract talented employees

Research shows that 70% of job candidates look to company reviews before they make career decisions. But the internet isn’t the only way talent could research your company. Future employees can also learn what your organization is like from your current employees.

For instance, employees notice how the offboarding process is handled—whether they’re the ones exiting or not—and word-of-mouth travels. Done poorly, the process can color your employees’ views and affect your company culture.

It’s essential to have an offboarding process that’s empathetic and people-centric. Suppose a team member is considered a high-potential or star employee. In that case, they could wield a degree of influence over possible new employees. Don’t forget that current and former employees can act as valuable ambassadors.

Improve knowledge transfer

Make regular knowledge transfer, such as weekly one-on-one’s and skip-level meetings, a part of your employees’ ongoing responsibilities. If you neglect these conversations, the exit interview may be the first time you catch that valuable information; by then, it may be too late to remedy it.

While you could interview everyone who leaves your company, HBR suggests that “the organizations with the most-progressive programs prioritized high potentials and stars over others. [And] high potentials are generally knowledgeable about the company and likely to know more about competitors because they are often recruitment targets.”

Secure your company’s assets

Whenever a team member leaves your organization, it opens up the possibility of dangerous security risks and potential data leaks. A good offboarding process ensures there are no loose ends or open access when an employee exits. It helps prevent data loss and closes opportunities for security breaches.

What are 3 good types of exit interview questions? (with examples)

Effective exit interview questions boil down to learning three things:

  • What motivated your employee’s departure
  • What your employee experienced at your company
  • What your employee’s perception is of your company

Glassdoor suggests asking “13 Must-Ask Exit Interview Questions” to understand your employee’s departure.

Here are some of their questions organized by question type:

What motivated your employee’s departure?

  • Why did you begin looking for a new job?
  • What ultimately led you to accept the new position?
  • Would you consider coming back to work here in the future? In what area or function? What would need to change?

What was your employee’s experience at your company?

  • Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well?
  • Did you have clear goals and objectives?
  • Did you receive constructive feedback to help you improve your performance?

What is your employee’s perception of your company?

  • How would you describe the culture of our company or work environment?
  • What could we have done for you to remain employed here?
  • If you could change anything about your job or the company, what would you change?

How to ask exit interview questions and get valuable feedback

First, when you conduct exit interviews, make them positive experiences. Your energy to an onboarding team member should be the same energy you should bring to an offboarding team member. For example, you’ll want to acknowledge their contributions and talk about their time with the company in a positive manner. Whatever the reasons for employment termination, offboarding should leave you and the exiting employee feeling good.

Second, standardize your open-ended questions for all exiting team members. Compiling a set of standard questions will help an interviewer remember and ask all the important questions. Human Resources might not be the only staff to interview the outgoing team member. And standardizing the questions into a template will help anyone ask the right questions if the questions are included in the offboarding process workflow. If you can, conduct a face-to-face interview. The interview can take place in person or on a video call.

Third, use your employee’s feedback to implement change and optimize your company. If your employee’s job has evolved, update their job description. If you find potential problems in your company’s operations or management, conduct an investigation and make improvements as needed. If knowledge needs transferring, record it and pass it on to a replacement and the team.

Finally, stay in communication. If the separation is on friendly terms, then encourage your outgoing employee to keep in touch. The single best way to show your employees your appreciation is to stay in touch and support them after you part ways.

How Vendr helps with exit interviews

Vendr can help make your organization a better place to work while protecting your valuable assets and enabling your long-term success. With Employee Workflows, SaaS management can help your company navigate and automate your onboarding and offboarding processes.

Vendr's workflows can automatically trigger the offboarding process, including disconnecting employees from your SaaS stack. It can also trigger stakeholders’ notifications to complete open tasks or set regular reminders to make sure every manual offboarding task is completed.

SaaS managment can also:

  • Automate offboarding (and onboarding) tasks like email backup and archive, account deprovisioning, setting up email forwards, and more.
  • Complete a smart checklist of offboarding tasks, from removing licenses to migrating billing ownerships.
  • Create distinct and custom workflows for each department, including HR departments.
  • Collect key information from employees with custom surveys.
  • Field requests from employees, configure tickets in the employee portal, route them to the right person, and keep the requestor in the loop with the Employee Help Desk.
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