What’s the point of Exit Interviews?

A recent post by the Evil HR lady was about Exit Interviews http://bit.ly/9jTZnu: the different options available and getting valid reasons for leaving from departing staff.  There were some excellent suggestions for gathering real data, but I want to take it one step further…..

My view is there is little point in undertaking Exit Interviews.  I don’t believe they represent value for money.   Whether they are outsourced (ie through on-line exit interview packages) or done in house (face to face or via paper surveys), they take up considerable resources.  I commented on the Evil HR Lady’s post saying that I had recently recommended the implementation of on-line exit interviews to an organisation I was working with.  I’m not be contradictory here.  I’ll explain my position:

As an HR professional, I strive to deliver best practice in whatever project I’m working on.   Last year I was engaged to deliver a Staff Engagement Strategy within limit resources.   All the research on staff engagement states that undertaking exit interviews is one small, but crucial, element of such a strategy.  I therefore considered the various options and decided that going on-line was the most cost efficient option with the best potential for gathering significant data that could be reported to the Board. 

In the background is a whole raft of research out there including:

  • the majority of people leave their jobs is because of their manager / management;
  • a third of employees leave within a year following a bad appraisal;
  • Induction crisis (ie a poorly managed induction or poor recruitment, or both) is one of the main reasons why employees leave their jobs within the first year;

Therefore, exit interviews are seen as a way of gathering data to prevent the departure of valued staff.   A good exit interview should have an appropriate balance of data and anecdote – similar to that you would find in a good staff survey.   You need the data to be able to tangible measure against any pre-determined metrics.  The anecdotes provide context to the data.   And as the Evil HR Lady says, organisations need to act on this data.  And in my experience, many don’t and give excuses such as “The data isn’t meaningful enough for us to take action”.  

Therefore, a year older and a year wiser, I think I would now try and argue the fact that where resources are scarce (as they are in the NHS), exit interviews are not cost-effective.  Instead, I would support two surveys:

  1. An annual staff survey which would include staff’s intention to leave within the next twelve months and the reasons for this;
  2. An “Induction Crisis” survey, to be undertaken by staff who were within three to six months of starting with an organisation. 

The whole point is about keeping valued staff;  with exit interviews  we trying to close the stable door after the stallion has bolted.  So what’s the point?