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Designing an exit interview process for your company can be an excellent way to gain feedback from employees who resign as well as those who are terminated. The circumstances of an employee's departure don't always affect the way he feels about the work environment. Requesting exit interview feedback from employees must be voluntary. You can't force someone to answer questions about how they feel about leaving or what it was like to work for the company. But you can enlist the aid of departing employees in helping you make the workplace an enjoyable one if you can convince them to answer a few questions before they pack up their belongings and move on. It's all in the way you ask.
Exit interviews help employers assess why workers leave the organization, the quality of their working relationships and, in some cases, the treatment they received while under the direction of assigned supervisors. Unfortunately, many employers neglect reviewing what could be valuable information. The data obtained from departing employees gets lost in the shuffle or simply filed away and ignored, according to California-based staffing firm OfficeTeam, that produced survey results indicating that less than one-fifth of employers act on exit interview responses. If you're going to request an exit interview, use the information to the company's advantage instead of letting departing employees wonder if the time they spent answering your questions was worthwhile.
The questions your organization uses for exit interviews can affect the veracity of statements that employees give. For example, questions that ask the soon-to-be former employee to provide positive and constructive feedback are far more effective than creating an exit interview that's simply a medium for employee gripes. Ask questions such as, "How accurately did the recruiter and hiring manager describe the job during your initial interview process?" and "Were your most enjoyable working relationships at ABC Company the ones you had with co-workers, supervisors or customers and clients?"
Anonymity vs. Confidentiality
Anonymity and confidentiality are key factors in obtaining helpful information. The manner in which you ask an employee affects the quality and the forthrightness with which she volunteers truthful and useful information. For example, you can promise anonymity, but you cannot reasonably assure confidentiality because you may need to use the comments to effect changes in the organization. Anonymity means you won't disclose that "Mary Doe said her supervisor was inept." On the other hand, guaranteeing confidentiality means that you can disclose that "Four employees who left the sales department during 2013 were dissatisfied with their supervisor's leadership skills."
To piggyback on anonymity, assure the employee that his statements won't affect how the company characterizes his resignation or termination. In other words, his employment record won't be altered even if he provides less-than-favorable information. The purpose of an exit interview isn't to dig for information to sully one worker's employment record. It's purpose is to improve working conditions for all of the organization's employees. One way to overcome an employee's fear that his comments will be used against him is to outsource your exit interview process. Engage a third-party provider or create an online survey that guarantees anonymity and eliminates the possibility of retribution.
If you work for a company that doesn't have a formal exit interview process, ask the HR department if you can comment about your experience with the company. Tread carefully when you suggest this, though. What you believe is an act that demonstrates your interest in providing well-intentioned feedback could be interpreted as an addendum to your resignation letter. Therefore, ask for any information you provide to be used to improve working conditions and don't include scathing comments about the company and how much you disliked your job, your supervisor or the company. Offer positive feedback or feedback constructed from a positive standpoint instead of comments you may live to regret.
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Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.
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