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3 Exit Interview Tips HR Professionals Can Implement to Improve Retention

With tens of millions of workers quitting their jobs so far this year, HR professionals need to embrace new ways of gathering employee feedback — including through more effective exit interviews. Here’s how better exit interviews can help employers reduce employee attrition.

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If you thought the Great Resignation was over, think again. The news cycle might have moved on, but workers are still quitting their jobs or switching careers at unprecedented rates. In June 2022, for instance, 4.2 million Americans (about 2.8% of the U.S. workforce) voluntarily left their positions.

Even if workers haven’t officially stepped down, there’s a good chance they’re looking. Of the nearly 10,000 American workers surveyed by WTW, 28% said they were looking for new employment; another 25% said they planned to stick with their current employers but would depart for the “right offer.” What does this mean? More than half of your employees could be actively or passively searching for a job.

Throughout this mass exodus, HR professionals have been chasing their tails to figure out why people are quitting their jobs and how they can entice them to stay. Some have tried to stem the flow with well-intentioned perks like thank-you bonuses, but these kinds of employee retention strategies are often based on faulty assumptions about the true causes of attrition. To get the answers we seek, we must go straight to the source.

The Untapped Power of Exit Interviews

Exit interviews can be an incredible resource for HR professionals. When an employee decides to part ways with your company, these 1-on-1 interviews are an opportunity to gather feedback on how your company can improve, give employees space to clear the air and end the relationship on a positive note, and nudge employees to stay under revised circumstances (on a case-by-case basis).

These goals are great in theory, but the feedback HR professionals gather from exit interviews all too often goes unused. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your exit interviews, you need to take employee feedback to heart and use it as inspiration to improve your company’s processes, working conditions, and office culture. Here are three exit interview tips you can implement at your company.

1. Think outside the box.

Exit interview feedback is important, but it’s easy to feel stuck when employees offer suggestions that you simply can’t implement. For instance, 37% of Americans say low pay caused them to quit, but across-the-board pay raises aren’t typically feasible for small businesses and startups. Instead, think of some creative ways you can apply that feedback.

Total compensation goes beyond base salary, so there are other ways you can increase your employees’ financial security. Perhaps you can take steps to improve their access to affordable healthcare, which ensures their paychecks stretch further each month. A beenfit like Paytient helps employees manage unexpected medical costs by filling gaps in their benefits, and it’s relatively inexpensive on the employer side.

2. Take negative feedback in stride.

If you’re consistently getting negative feedback in your exit interviews, resist the urge to get defensive. Exit interviews are an opportunity for employees to air grievances, and you need to be compassionate enough to recognize and validate their concerns. Once you’ve allowed the employee to say their piece, begin asking specific questions to identify actionable next steps.

If an employee doesn’t have anything positive to say about their manager, for instance, ask pointed questions about where that manager failed to support the employee. You might discover that the manager is amazing at their technical skills but struggles to provide feedback and communicate expectations. Moving forward, you can begin to emphasize soft skills when interviewing for supervisor roles.

3. Get your timing right.

Most employees are happy to share their observations in an exit interview, but you need to be deliberate about timing and attendance. Resist the urge to schedule the interview immediately after someone gives notice. There’s a good chance emotion will be high, and you want to give the departing employee time to gather their thoughts. Waiting until the employee’s last day is just as ineffective, as the employee could be mentally done with the company at that point.

Try to conduct the interview somewhere between when they resign and their final day of work. And when it comes to invitations to the interview, keep it exclusive. The best exit interviews are only between an HR professional and an employee. If the employee’s manager is present, they might feel uncomfortable speaking freely — especially if they have feedback about the manager.

Exit interviews signal to your employees (present and future) that you value their opinions and are willing to listen to what they have to say. But if you spend time and effort collecting employee feedback only to have it gather dust in your office, exit interviews can have the opposite effect. The next time you find yourself sitting down for an exit interview with a departing employee, try to keep an open mind. Be prepared to listen, learn, and make positive changes based on their feedback.

Attraction and Retention
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