A Guide to Exit Interviews


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Exit interviews provide feedback on why employees leave, what they liked about their job, and where the organization needs improvement. They are most effective when data is compiled and tracked over time. The concept has been revisited as a tool to capture knowledge from leavers. Exit interviews can be a win-win situation: the organization retains a portion of the leaver's knowledge and shares it; the departing employee articulates unique contributions and leaves a mark.

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A Guide to Exit Interviews

  1. 1. The views expressed in this presentation are the views of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank, or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this presentation and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this presentation do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology. A Guide to Exit Interviews Olivier Serrat 2013
  2. 2. Exit … Stage Left If 80% of knowledge is unwritten and largely unspoken, we need to elicit that before we can articulate, share, and make wider use of it. Knowledge harvesting is one way to do so. The less knowledge and experience an organization captures from staff on a regular basis, the more it needs to capture when they leave. This is especially relevant where departing employees embody significant human capital that should be passed to those who remain in the organization. Exit interviews are a unique chance to survey and analyze the opinions of departing employees, who are generally more forthcoming and objective on such occasions.
  3. 3. Exit … Stage Right More recently, the practice of exit interviews has been revisited as a knowledge management tool to identify, capture, store, and share knowledge from departing employees and minimize loss through staff turnover. Most departing employees are pleased to share knowledge, help a successor, or brief senior management. In so doing, they yield information that can be used to enhance all aspects of an organization's working environment including culture, management, business processes, and intra- as well as inter-organizational relationships. One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.— Anonymous
  4. 4. The Benefits of Legacy Exit interviews are a win–win situation: the organization retains a portion of the leaver's knowledge and shares it; the departing employee articulates unique contributions and leaves a mark. The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind.—John Allston. I hope that posterity will judge me kindly, not only as to the things which I have explained, but also to those which I have intentionally omitted so as to leave to others the pleasure of discovery.—René Descartes
  5. 5. The Benefits of Legacy At negligible cost, some benefits of exit interviews are that they • Help retain vital knowledge in the organization. • Catalyze identification of specific shortcomings and opportunities for improvement. • Enhance the understanding and experience that managers have of managing people and organizations. • Support an organization's human resource practices. • Inform management succession planning. • Indicate how to improve staff engagement and retention. • Quicken and improve the effectiveness of the recruitment process. • Shorten the learning curve of new employees or successors to the departing employee. • Generate useful information for training needs analysis and training planning processes. • Result in the departing employee having a more positive view of the organization and its culture.
  6. 6. Face-à-Face Face-to-face interactions are central to exit interviews. This method tells the departing employee that his or her opinion is important enough to have someone sit down and discuss issues of concern to the organization. Preferably, they complement or deepen earlier responses to questionnaires. The exit interview process must be initiated as soon as it is known that a particular employee is leaving. In preparation, it is necessary to • Consider who currently accesses the departing employee's knowledge and what they need to know from the replacement staff. • Develop a plan in a participatory way to ensure that important knowledge can be identified, captured, and stored (for later sharing) during the departing employee's notice period.
  7. 7. Sample Exit Interview Questions General • What was satisfying during your time in the unit? What was frustrating? • What could you have done better or more? • What extra responsibility would you have welcomed? Induction • Were you inducted adequately for your role(s)? • What improvement could be made to the way you were inducted for your role(s)? Learning and Development • How well do think your learning and development needs were assessed and met • What learning and development did you find helpful and enjoyable? • What learning and development would you have liked or needed that you did not receive and what effect would that have had?
  8. 8. Sample Exit Interview Questions Performance Evaluation • What can you say about the way your performance was measured and the feedback on your performance results? • How well do you think the performance and development plan worked for you? • How would you have changed the expectations (or absence of) that were placed on you? And why? Communications • What can you say about communications in the unit? How could these be improved? • What could you say about communications between the unit and other departments and offices? How could these be improved? Working Conditions • How would you describe the culture of the unit? • What suggestion would you make to improve working conditions? • What examples of inefficiencies in business processes and procedures in the unit could you point to? • How could the unit reduce stress levels among employees where stress is an issue?
  9. 9. Sample Exit Interview Questions Management • What can you say about the way you were managed? On a day-to-day basis? On a month-to- month basis? • What things did the unit and its management do to make your job more difficult? • What would you say about how you were motivated and how could that have been improved? • How could the unit have enabled you to have made better use of your time? Knowledge Transfer • What would you consider to be your foremost knowledge assets? • How might your explicit and tacit knowledge be transferred prior to your departure? • Would you be happy to take part in a briefing meeting with managers, replacements, successor, and/or colleagues so that we can benefit further from your knowledge prior to your departure? • What can the unit do to enable you to pass on as much of your knowledge as possible to your replacement or successor prior to your departure? • How and when would you prefer to pass on your knowledge to your successor? • Could you introduce (name of successor) to your key contacts before you go? • How can the unit gather and make better use of the knowledge of employees?
  10. 10. Activity-Based Mapping Template Key Activity Inputs OutputsTask/Process Users & Uses of Outputs Tools & Systems Dependencies e.g., authorizations, etc. Organizational & Management Issues
  11. 11. Toward Learning-Based Exits Since 2005, Shell has helped its units identify and retain critical knowledge. After discussions to target retirees, a critical knowledge interview is conducted with the departing expert to zoom in on the expertise his/her unit is most likely to miss upon retirement (or even transfer, in which case a simplified approach is used). This sets the ground for the selection of best-fit techniques for the capture of knowledge during follow-on, in-depth interviews (and its dissemination). Over the years, variants of the approach and its application have spread. Where knowledge must not be lost, some organizations have fostered retiree networks (or pre-retirement mentoring schemes). Others have simply extended tenures.
  12. 12. Further Reading • ADB. 2008. Conducting Exit Interviews. Manila. www.adb.org/publications/conducting-exit-interviews • ——. 2009. Building Trust in the Workplace. Manila. www.adb.org/publications/building-trust-workplace • ——. 2010. Harvesting Knowledge. Manila. www.adb.org/publications/harvesting-knowledge • ——. 2010. Engaging Staff in the Workplace. Manila. www.adb.org/publications/engaging-staff-workplace
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