Exit Interview: Too Little, Too Late

Exit Interview: Too Little, Too Late

Exit interview is a common tool used to uncover reasons why employees resign. A recent Towers Watson survey reported that seventy percent of Asian employers use exit interview to boost their business. Such a tool has its merits but the usefulness relies on critical success factors such as:

  1. The rigour of the design, with a balance between quantitative and qualitative feedback
  2. The quality of analyses done on the data to produce actionable insights - not just at an organisational level, but also by divisions, job families or business critical roles
  3. The timeliness of the information - because several organisations analyse the data only periodically, with no real-time web-based engines to provide on-demand analytics

Moreover, exit surveys suffer from another key problem. By the time leaders take actions, the talent we try to retain has long gone. Do better next time? Abhishek Mittal's, senior consultant from Towers Watson, vision of an agile HR function in a VUCA world clearly points to the notion that HR direction, organisation and agenda have to be adaptable by design to cater to the ever changing business environment. It is hard to predict the future, and HR must prepare for multiple scenarios and respond to them as they unfold. Exit interview, in my opinion, does not cut it in this agile form of HR.

Instead of exit interview, try "Stay Interview", an informal and ongoing conversation between the manager and the employee to strengthen employee’s engagement and improve retention probability. This approach has been mentioned in several online articles these days (Links below). There is even a book entitled "The Power of Stay Interview" written by Richard Finnegan that dives deep into this concept.

Following suggestions on how you may execute stay interview effectively and successfully:

  1. Convince your top most decision maker. Without the conviction of senior leaders, the rest will never buy into this concept, let alone executing it. Prepare a clear case for implementing this initiative based on literature and data.
  2. Simplify it and communicate effectively. Business leaders need to be informed concisely what needs to be done, why so, and when. Best if you can have this communicated broadly using a one- or two- pager document at a leadership meeting. Anything longer, you will lose focus. After which, follow up with individual leaders to gain commitment.
  3. Follow up. I would go as far as saying any initiative that doesn't have a follow-up action plan and means to measure initiative progress is doomed for failure. Make sure you have this in place and ensure all stakeholders and fellow team members are clear on this.
  4. Pilot (if required). It is possible that you might face resistance, considering that this does take up precious time for leaders and managers. If needed, position a pilot for 1-2 divisions and measure results to show tangible gains from this initiative.

To sum this up, I remember a fantastic quote which reminds us why we need to invest time in our people - “Great people will manage their careers. It just might not be with you.” Lets get our act together, now.

Suggested links on Stay Interview

3 Refreshing Career Advice

Staying at the Table