Turnover – managing the problem in advance

Drake Editorial Team

A company’s success directly reflects the success of its people. When an employee leaves, the resulting turnover can have a significant impact on more than productivity. Staff turnover also has financial implications due to the investment of time and money required for resourcing, rehiring, and retraining someone new. Therefore, conducting an exit interview to find out why an employee is leaving is vital. 

A study by a leading management consulting company showed that 80% of employees would like to advance their career with their current employer, but 51% believe they will have to leave to achieve their career goals.

Exit interviews help identify important organizational issues that may also be affecting other employees. Once uncovered, a company can begin developing solutions to address these issues.


Conducting an Exit Interview

For the most value, an exit interview should be a structured process in which the departing employee can openly discuss his or her reasons for leaving. The goal is to provide a comfortable environment where frank and honest answers on topics regarding the department, team, manager, and the company can be shared.

First, carefully consider who will conduct the exit interview — who is the best representative to effectively debrief the employee. This decision should be reviewed for every exit interview.

To ensure you capture unbiased information, someone other than the immediate manager, or even the HR manager, should conduct the exit interview. The immediate manager may be the reason the employee is leaving the firm, and HR managers are often viewed as representing ‘management.’

HR professionals suggest outsourcing exit interviews to an impartial third party. After familiarizing themselves with the employee’s personal history and position responsibilities, objective third party exit interviewers can assure the quality of information gathered. An impartial perspective can ensure confidentiality and integrity of the facts since there will be no ‘hidden agenda’ or ‘organizational filters’ involved. Third-party interviewers are also emotionally neutral, which means departing employees can discuss sensitive issues in detail, thus enabling the interview to uncover specific problems. 

Third-party exit interviewers bring an impartial perspective, improving the integrity and quality of information gathered.


Structuring the Exit Interview

Question structure and design are the foundation of a successful exit interview. A template of exit interview questions, customized for your company, should be created in advance. You can further customize the questions to specific individuals, based on voluntary versus involuntary termination, role, seniority, and other relevant circumstances.

When compiling your questions, keep in mind the end goal — to learn as much about your company, the perception of your company, and other factors that influenced the departing employee.


Questions to Ask at the Beginning of the Interview

Involve the respondents in the interview as soon as possible. Start with simple, easy-to-answer questions and work up to the hardest. Before asking about controversial matters (such as feelings and conclusions), first ask for facts. With this approach, respondents will more easily engage in the interview, warming up to the interview style and process before getting involved in more personal and controversial matters.


Questions to Ask in the Middle of the Interview

Next, integrate the employee’s opinions. Ask open-ended questions about the present before asking about the past, as it is usually easier to talk about the present, and then work up to the past or future. 


This section of the interview should delve into matters about:

  • The job (responsibilities, expectations, training, preparation)
  • The supervisor (direct reporting, career development, support, communication)
  • The department (environment, culture, fellow employees, expectations)
  • Management (management changes; expectations, visibility)
  • Compensation and benefits (increases, changes, overtime, benefit packages)


Through open-ended questions, try to find out if there are things the departing employee would suggest improving.

  • Why are you leaving?
  • What did you like most about the company and your role?
  • Under what conditions would you have stayed?
  • Ideally, what would you have changed?
  • Would you recommend working for this company to your family and friends?

Questions to Ask in Closing the Interview

This is the opportunity for respondents to provide additional information they deem important and to bring up any other issues they may want to discuss. They can also give valuable feedback on their impression of the interview so that the exit interview process can continue to be enhanced and improved for the future.


Monitoring for Survey Gaps

If issues that are not part of your survey come up regularly during exit interviews, ensure that you add them as regular questions going forward.

Over time, careful analysis and tracking of exit interview outcomes will identify trends and patterns as to why people leave your company. Analyze these to determine if turnover is higher in certain positions and divisions, whether there are management issues in certain areas, and whether your remuneration is in line with the competition. 

Discoveries made by external, unbiased companies are often better received by management than those from an internal report. Management should monitor the progress over time. The key to successful exit interviews is to follow up and take corrective action as needed.

Contact Drake for our online, fully customizable Exit Interview process to deliver the results you need. Drake's Exit Interviewing solution ensures exit interviews are done professionally and guarantees anonymity. Customized exit interview questions are prepared for your organization by experienced Drake consultants. An automated online system ensures a reliable, confidential, and cost-effective way to gather feedback. Finally, Drake delivers careful analysis that identifies where problems lie and what you can do to stop costly turnover. For more information, contact your local Drake office.

Article reprinted from The Drake Business Review, a quarterly publication helping high performing managers and executives meet the challenges in their businesses now.

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