What is the first thing that you think you’ll feel when a valued employee announces their resignation?
Annoyance? Disappointment? Anger? Failure? Stress?
Whatever you feel, this isn’t a time to pass blame or attack an employee. This is a valuable opportunity to understand how things went wrong—if, of course, they did.
The time and place to delve into those possible issues aren’t when you’re delivered the news, but during the exit interview. You need to ask relevant questions, designed to provide real data, as a standard part of your resignation process. The answers you receive will provide crucial and constructive insights into your process and how to rectify your problem areas.
The most important data
1. Why are you leaving?
This is a question that comes in two parts, with two equally important answers.
The first—what made them start looking for a new job, and the second—what was it about the new job, in particular, that made them accept it?
With a little exploration and analysis, you can find out what the main issues were within their current role and the type of things they were looking for to resolve their dissatisfaction.
Can you resolve the problem straight away?
2. Can we change your mind, and would you consider returning to the company in the future?
If the answers you get from question one are easily rectified, it’s not too late to try and keep hold of your employee—if you want to, of course.
If the departure is purely circumstantial, and the employee would consider returning at some point, then perhaps you didn’t do too badly, after all. Ask what you could do to make that happen. It’s all good insight for healthy development.
Do your employees understand how important they are to you?
3. Did you feel valued by management? If not, what could we have done better?
Recognition and value are incredibly important attributes to your employees, whether you see it or not. An employee that feels valued will hold a sense of belonging and responsibility to the company. It’s what creates loyalty and helps you retain your staff.
If the exiting employee feels that they have no value to the company, then you need to find a way to make that happen with your remaining employees before they desert you too.
Was their role clear or confusing?
4. Were there any company policies you found difficult to understand?
If the goals and operations of the business aren’t clear, your employees could feel a bit lost and useless. Even if you believe the objectives and your requirements from your staff are clear, if they don’t see it the same way, then it can be just as destructive.
Did an organic development of the role ruin the job for them?
5. Did your job description change since you were hired?
If the job your employee is doing is different from the one they applied for, it makes sense that they feel dissatisfied in the role. Understanding how the development of a role changes your employees' enthusiasm or attitude towards their work can help you avoid future exits.
Is support an issue?
6. Did you have all the tools you needed to do your job well?
Not having the right tools for the job can make your employee’s daily duties seem like a constant uphill battle. The right tools can make it a pleasure, the challenge they signed up for, and one that they’ll embrace.
Whether it's training, equipment, software, or access to further resources—knowing where they felt unsupported or unable to perform to the standards they wanted to, will help you do better in the future.
Are they suitably prepared to succeed?
7. Did you receive the training you felt necessary?
Training and development play a huge part in your staff, having the right tools to do the job. It also provides employees with a sense of advancement and growth. Training is an excellent way to help prevent your staff from feeling stagnant and bored.
Growth and progression through their career is a big part of employee retention. We love to feel useful, valued, and wanted, and this is a great way to evoke those feelings.
Find out what you do right
8. What was the best part of the job?
Wherever you can pinpoint the reasons your staff value their positions, it’s so beneficial to build on those areas. This is an opportunity to see value where you might have missed it and to apply it to other employees, building on the results of your most positive attributes.
…and what you do wrong
9. What was the worst part of the job?
And at the opposite end of the scale, if you can determine the areas or activities your employees enjoyed the least, you have an opportunity to resolve them, or at least to help them find ways to manage them more constructively.
Find out if the problem was a ‘who’
10. How were your relationships with your managers?
Relationships at work can make or break a job. An unhealthy relationship with a manager is more than enough to cause an employee to look for a position where they’ll be treated how they deserve. You may have already lost this employee, but without attention, there could be a few more following in their footsteps.
And for those items you could never hope to guess
11. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The previous questions are all designed to uncover a specific flaw in your operation. Adding a completely open-ended option for your employee to offload anything and everything else gives you a chance to visit the unknown.
If there are issues you know nothing about, you can’t possibly expect to resolve them.
It’s up to you what you do with the answers to these questions. We’d suggest you look deeply at this newfound information and use it to improve your operations in as many ways as possible.
But why wait until the resignation process? If you approach these questions in appraisal meetings and performance reviews, perhaps you won’t have as many exit interviews in the future.
Keeping hold of valuable employees can save you time, money, and stress. Knowing the best ways to do that could lie in the answers provided by those who have already been there. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear where you’re going wrong direct from those who know.