Exit interviews are a common human resources and leadership practice when someone is leaving an organization, but I’ve never found them to be of much value. I’ve been in Human Resources for over two decades now and conducted more exit interviews than I can count and only rarely have they ever uncovered information that was of much use. So, why do organizations continue to do them?
Unless HR professionals or leaders have the luxury of time to spend (and I don’t know any that do), I think they should stop conducting exit interviews as a matter of routine and instead, spend that time investing in building relationships with existing employees in an effort to retain them. Rounding and stay interviews are two tactics that can be a far more effective use of human resources and leadership time than exit interviews.
Why don’t exit interviews work? People are on guard during exit interviews – even if they have a great deal of trust with the interviewer, they have a fear of burning a bridge if they are fully honest with anything critical that they may share about the organization or their leadership when they are exiting. With their own self-interest in mind, (which is only human nature) they are reluctant to share what they really think because they might want to return to that organization someday. Because of this, spending time gathering information from employees who are leaving is simply a waste of time because it won’t provide a balanced and accurate picture.
Laurie is an experienced Human Resources executive who is passionate about organizational culture, creating great workplaces and employee engagement.