Five exit interview strategies to stop staff leaving

If you persistently lose staff, exit interviews can be the key to better human resources management, improved employee engagement and more staff retention. Stephanie Freeman shares five exit interview tips in this post.

Employee turnover is a problem that affects every business, of every size. And it’s a problem that is only going to get worse, with new research from Roy Morgan finding that 28 per cent of Australian employees are planning to change organisations within the next 12 months. In a time when skills are growing short, losing over a quarter of the workforce would have a big impact on most businesses.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to fix the turnover problem if you notice a growing pile of resignations on your desk. The first step to turning the negative statistic around is to find out why your staff are leaving by conducting simple exit interviews.

Exit interviews are a strategy that can (and should!) be applied to businesses of any size, as they will allow you to pinpoint exactly what is triggering any resignations. While the trigger might seem obvious, it’s important not to assume why any one employee is leaving or you may risk spending money to fix something that isn’t broken.

To get accurate answers, exit interviews should be conducted by someone other than the exiting employee’s direct manager. A lot of resignation triggers stem from management and an employee is unlikely to admit to any problems to their own manager for one simple reason: he/she will not want to burn any bridges.

Keep exit interviews short and to the point to yield the best results without using up your time. A 15 minute interview is probably all that’s necessary for more junior positions, while 30-45 minutes is usually valuable for more senior employees.

To pinpoint the real reasons behind employee resignations, exit interviews should explore:

  1. Workplace perceptions – Ask what employees think of their team, colleagues, managers and the business overall. Focus on finding problems that management has the power to control.
  2. Salary – Dig into the employee’s satisfaction with their total salary package and salary rises (including when they occur), as well as whether they feel they are compensated fairly compared to their colleagues.
  3. Future potential – Explore what the employee thought of their potential future with your organisation, in terms of development and career opportunities.
  4. Role – The problem may lie with the role itself. Ask whether exiting employees understood their role, or were satisfied with the scope of their duties.
  5. Suggestions for improvement – Try to discover whether the employee has any suggestions for improving staff satisfaction. You might be surprised to find their suggestions would be simple or low-cost to implement, plus it will help in developing a turnover strategy.

You may find that it’s not you, or something that you can solve. While not all turnover is preventable, the majority of employee resignations can be avoided with quite simple strategies such as regular recognition for staff achievements.

Exit interviews will help you turn a negative statistic into a positive strategy, helping you to retain your most valued staff and even to recruit new top performers! Exit interviews can be an invaluable source of information that will provide the starting point of any simple retention strategy to combat staff turnover in your business.

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