Measure the Performance of Your Culture Through Exit Interviews

Measuring and monitoring the health and performance of your culture, which drives productivity and operational performance, cannot be achieved simply by getting feedback from employees during annual reviews or loosely counting on them to bring urgent matters to your attention.

The perceived (or perhaps real) risk that speaking up could cause more trouble than it’s worth is motivation enough for some employees to keep quiet and get through each day without attracting any attention. After all, no one really wants to be labeled as the company snitch or potentially cut their own throat by being the messenger of bad news.

So if your company is experiencing higher than industry average turnover, or if you suspect there may be an issue with your culture, consider implementing an exit interview process as part of your employee retention strategy.

Timing

Facilitating exit interviews should never be done within that two-week timeframe between the submission of the employee’s resignation and the farewell lunch on his or her last day. The reason for this is that most people are a bit anxious when submitting their resignation and want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. As the exiting employee may already be nervous about the resignation meeting, and you as the employer on the receiving end of the resignation may be in a state of shock or surprise, moving sharply into an exit interview would be awkward and unproductive.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, Making Exit Interviews Count, the ideal time to facilitate an exit interview is one month after the employee’s departure. The reason is because the conversation will be more relaxed, and potentially strong emotions harbored while still on the company’s payroll will have dissipated. This will provide for a much more productive and valuable dialogue.

The Interviewer

Ideally, the CEO or president of the company should be the person to reach out the former employee requesting an exit interview. However, the likelihood of the former employee agreeing to meet will be largely dependent on how the invitation to the meeting is made. If the HR person reaches out on behalf of the CEO to schedule a time to meet, the invitation will likely fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. More appropriately, if the CEO him or herself reaches out with the message of wanting to learn more about why the employee left, the former employee will be more inclined to accept the meeting. If you, as the CEO have unflattering feelings toward the employee, keep in mind that the ex-employee seemed to be a good hire and fit in the beginning, and you need to know what went wrong that led to his or her departure.

Alternatively, there are benefits to retaining an outside consultant experienced in conducting exit interviews for several reasons:

  1. The knowledge of knowing what questions to ask to determine what went wrong in the employer/employee relationship
  2. To ascertain whether or not the employee may have been a bad hire
  3. If the employee was indeed a good hire and internal factors pushed him or her out the door, (i.e. leadership, operations, company performance, compensation, culture, etc.) the consultant can advise the employer of what was learned so that the CEO can take steps to prevent further attrition.

Exit interviews are being employed (no pun intended) at more and more organizations as a strategy for living a continuous improvement culture. The good news is that ex-employees are typically more than willing to engage in productive exit interview conversations. All you need to do is ask.