Exit Interviews Are Bogus

Stop wasting your time chasing people for answers as they walk out of the door. If you want to learn about why people leave your company, stop asking the ones who left and start asking those who stay why they’re still here. Every exit interview that I’ve seen is subject to questions about validity.  You can categorize the attitude of employees who are leaving an organization into a few categories:

1. Disgruntled and angry

2. Bored

3. Ambitious

4. Extremely happy

Each of the above raises questions of validity for me. If you’re overly ambitious, why would you ruin any chance of coming back to this organization? If you’re disgruntled what you say may be fueled by anger at one individual and needs to be examined carefully (not that it can’t be right, but be careful using it solely). The point is, it’s tough to craft an engagement strategy around this data. You’re better off conducting stay interviews.

A stay interview is simple enough to conduct. To do them successfully you need to build a culture of trust and the interview should remain anonymous. They’re good to conduct once a quarter with a sampling of your employee population. In the interview, ask the following questions:

1. What is it about our company that keeps you here?

2. What type of offer would it take to lure you away?

3. What would cause you to leave?

4. What do we need to do to retain you?

The challenge here is that you need to get your employees and your leaders to a place where they understand that what’s said is used only to better the culture. With guarantees that it won’t be used for retribution. Let’s be real, if a competitor came knocking, most employees would at least listen. This is your opportunity to hedge and see what you’d have to do to keep your employees around and engaged.

Once you get the data back, start looking for trends and make commitments to follow up and take action to build a better culture. If you’re committed to running these once a quarter, you’ll get a true sense of how your people view the organization and what you need to do about it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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