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It's not me, it's you: re-thinking the exit interview process to transform the employee experience

Jack Davies, Head of Content, EMEA at Qualtrics

April 15 2018 - Think about the last time you left a job. When you had that exit interview with HR, did you come away feeling your feedback was really going to make a difference to the organisation? Or was it just an opportunity to get a few things off your chest that you hadn't been able to put forward until then?

For a long time now, the exit interview has been seen as an exercise in qualitative feedback, with responses delivering very little actionable data back to the business. Surely you're not the only one who mentioned the lack of training, the career progression opportunities or the relationships with your manager that led you to finally be lured to pastures new?

The trouble is, without data, it's just a series of anecdotes. It's not reliable either - often in such circumstances, emotions run high and employees don't discuss their genuine feelings. This makes it nearly impossible to identify the real reasons why people leave.

This is especially true within large and international organisations, where exiting employees rarely get the face-to-face time that they need. Such organisations also struggle to develop consistent feedback approaches, with exit interviews often being conducted by different members of staff, with different interview styles, in different locations.

It makes it near impossible to really identify why people are leaving.

So many organisations struggle with this - 89% of employers believe workers leave for more money. But ask employees, and just 12% say they do. It's clear there's a gap between what employers think is happening and what's really happening.

Here are three ways your exit interview process could help close the gap with a data-driven approach to reduce attrition and improve the employee experience:

1. Genuine, honest feedback - remove the emotion

Exit interviews are a difficult social situation for many people to handle, even longstanding HR professionals find them challenging. Depending on the reasons why an employee has chosen to leave, exit interviews can range from quiet and uneventful to emotionally-charged minefields. Given this range of responses, it can be very difficult for businesses to quantify the findings of their exit interviews and to turn those findings into an actionable plan for a company.

By moving at least part of this process online, organisations can provide employees with a forum in which they can provide their feedback in the necessary depth without a set time limit. At the same time, by filling out an anonymous survey employees can be more open in their feedback. This can make a later, face-to-face meeting, far more productive, actionable and objective.

2. Standardise your questions for better data

Using a standardised question set is essential if you're to turn feedback into actionable insights. That's not to say every exit interview should be identical - you could have some deviation between different departments, job levels etc - but there should be a standard set of questions that everybody answers.

By doing so, you have more data points to analyse and can start to spot common themes from your leavers. It allows you to run data analysis to identify key drivers and really understand why people are leaving the organisation.

Imagine if you could run an analysis with a single click to identify all the connections and correlations between your exit feedback - without a standardised question set, it's impossible to do.

3. Bring your employee data together

Exit feedback in isolation is valuable. But as part of a larger data set including employee engagement, lifecycle feedback (eg training or onboarding feedback) and performance data, it's transformative.

Attrition is a dirty word in HR and we all want to reduce it. But let's face it, not all attrition is bad - it's attrition amongst your top performers that is mission critical.

When you can see data from across the employee lifecycle, you can start to drill down into your exit feedback to identify the issues that really matter - which are the key factors causing your best people to leave and what can you do about them?

Organisations that can bring together data from every touchpoint in the employee journey can identify insights others can't. After all, the trigger that prompts someone to leave is rarely as simple (if only it were!) as a single event - it's typically a myriad of factors spread over time.

It may be there's a correlation between onboarding feedback and attrition, or maybe there's an event in employees' personal lives such as returning from parental leave that is linked to attrition.

Without the full picture, any actions you take are best guesses, but when you bring all your HR data and employee feedback together with your exit feedback you can identify the exact moments in the employee lifecycle to step in and make a difference to keep your best people on board.

HR departments now have the tools they need to really drive transformation. It's never been easier to gather feedback - not just at exit, but at any stage in the employee lifecycle - and use that to drive improvements that have a tangible impact on the organisations KPIs.

From reducing costly attrition to driving employee engagement and productivity, employee experience is now the cornerstone of any successful organisation. Happy employees design great products and deliver to happy customers - it's that simple and HR is now the enabler, pulling the levers and designing the experience to allow employees to deliver their best.



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