<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do We Get Better Information From Our Exit Interviews

September 27, 2009
Dear In the Dark:
A well-designed exit survey process is an important source of information on turnover drivers. You could use it to inform your company's retention efforts. Also, exit surveys could help organizations manage the final “handshake” with departing employees, to ensure that both sides part ways on the best terms possible.
Nonetheless, many organizations struggle with response-rate problems and issues of data integrity in their exit surveys. Both sets of difficulties stem from the same fundamental problem: Employees may not be entirely willing or able to share their true reasons for leaving at the time of departure.
Research generally has demonstrated low correlations between reasons for leaving given in exit interviews and those cited in follow-up surveys conducted in the months following a person's departure. In exit interviews, departing employees may feel apprehensive about criticizing the organization, not wanting to compromise letters of recommendation or create difficulties for former work colleagues. Alternatively, when the exit interview is conducted, departing employees may not have yet fully examined and evaluated highly charged feelings toward the organization they are leaving.
What can organizations do to increase exit survey response rates and the accuracy of turnover-related information? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Review communication approaches related to the exit survey to ensure that it is clear to employees why they are being asked to provide feedback and what will be done with the information.
2) Consider enlisting the support of a third-party partner in administering the survey process, to provide employees with additional confidentiality protections.
3) Consider supplementing exit interview data with information collected at a time when employees have placed some emotional distance between themselves and the organization. Former-employee surveys, targeting employees who have been out of the organization for three to six months, can be used to gather feedback on work experiences, current employment situations and current perceptions of their former employers.
SOURCE: William Werhane, global managing director, Hay Group Insight, Chicago
LEARN MORE: Please read The Best Conditions for Conducting Exit Interviews for more tips.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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