Exit interviews are the most popular method used by UK organisations to investigate why staff leave (CIPD 2009). The second most popular? Anonymous exit questionnaires. So between interviewing leavers in person, or on paper, there’s definitely a common theme here.

But why is it important to know why staff leave, and why are exit interviews (or questionnaires) the best way to do it? Let’s find out.

They can help you improve staff retention


High staff turnover is costly because recruiting and training new staff is costly. That’s why most organisations have the goal of retaining talent wherever possible. Exit interviews are a useful solution to the problem of high turnover.

Firstly, exit interviews can reveal patterns in the reasons staff leave. Your interviews should be asking things like:

  • Why did you decide to leave?
  • Were you unhappy with your pay/manager/role?
  • What could we have done to make you stay?
  • What would you have changed about your job?
  • What does your new job offer that we can’t?

Answers to these questions can all reveal important information about your workplace and organisational culture. If leavers consistently complain they don’t have the tools required to do their job, for example, you can change that — and improve staff retention as a result.

But without exit interviews, you’d be in the dark about problems causing your staff to leave.

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They can enhance your culture and performance


Exit interviews appear to be focused on staff who are leaving — but really, that’s a matter of perspective. Exit interviews (especially anonymous ones) are also a great opportunity to gather insights about your company. Exit interviewees are arguably more impartial too… because they no longer have to stay in your good books!

Ask open-ended questions about life at your company, such as:

  • How would you describe our organisational culture?
  • Did your job and the company deliver what we promised when we hired you?
  • What could the company do to improve?
  • What did you like most about your job?

When you compile and analyse trends in your interview data, you may discover valuable insights about your organisation. These insights can inform your organisational strategy, leading to action that improves your culture and management style.

They can help you align recruits’ expectations with job roles


Exit interviews don’t just uncover hidden truths about your company. They also reveal differences between employees’ expectations and their actual job roles.

For example, if departing employees consistently complain that their job was more technical than they expected, the problem isn’t necessarily with your company. The answer might simply be to improve your job descriptions, so that applicants understand the job they’re going for — and the people you recruit in future will enjoy greater job satisfaction.

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