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Exit Interview - A Data Minefield

Exit Interview - A Data Minefield

How can HR practitioners build and implement a better exit management system to identify pull and push factors and use the feed for establishing better retention strategies.

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by Aishwarya Ananth

One of the HR practices that bring in a lot of cynicism and eyeball rolling has been the Exit Interview. Employees wonder “What’s the point” and the employers wonder “That’s a bunch of lies” and the form goes to that corner of the HR space (onsite or online) designated to store piles of data no one ever gets to see.

From an employee’s perspective, the reasons behind the cynicism and disinterest in giving feedback include some of these concerns:

  1. Will I be burning bridges?
  2. Will this affect my chances to be re-employed here?
  3. Is someone even going to see this?
  4. Will it affect the background verification check by my new employer

The reasons behind the employer’s nonchalance in according importance to the exit interview process are

  1. Is the employee going to give an honest opinion/feedback?
  2. What is the value of information that comes from a disgruntled employee?
  3. How do we differentiate between authentic feedback and drama?

And thereby one of the most critical sources of information remains just a routine exercise. The above questions therefore call for an independent exit management process. One that seeks to understand why an employee left, what could have been done better, what are the pain points inside the organization.  Was it just pull factors that caused attrition or are there unknown or ignored push factors that combined with pull factors made the employee call it a day.  It is critical to understand attrition as a ratio of pull and push factors. That ratio determines the basis for the retention strategies.

For example if attrition today is 15%, then what the ratio is of pull and push factors in it.

  1. If the Pull ratio is higher – it indicates that we need to look at strategies for compensation , benefits and talent development against market practices
  2. If the push ratio is higher – we need to look internally and identify gaps in talent management and engagement practices.

In order to build an effective exit management process and feedback mechanism, here is what we as HR practitioners can do.

  1. Highlight the importance of the exit management process among the employees. Share relevant feedback that came out of exit interviews along with action plans and strategies. The analysis of data that comes out of the exit management process should be independently validated and be included in all strategic HR reports to senior management. The business needs to accept and understand the voice of the employee who had lost hope in the organization.
  2. The analytics from exit feedback should also be correlated and validated against the results from any Voice of Employee surveys conducted by the organization.
  3. Build trust among exiting employees by promising anonymity if requested and creating a system that guarantees it. It could be an online system, an independent consultant, or a special committee within the organization. The process should be set up to create trust and ensure that the employee does not fear of being penalized for voicing his feedback.

While a lot of effort is put in retention strategies and controlling attrition, we should also focus on the valuable data we could get from an employee who walks out as it would give an insight into what pushes an employee, in whom the organization has invested time and resources to leave.

Yes – the exit management process is a post mortem that is not going to make the employee take back the resignation but the insights we gain would help ensure that we create a better workplace for those who still believe in the organization.

This post was first published in LinkedIn