Survey Shows Many Firms Take Action on Exit Interview Feedback

MENLO PARK, CA -- The details departing employees reveal as they walk out the door can often be a catalyst for change, suggests a new survey. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of executives polled said they frequently act on information gathered during exit interviews. Another 13 percent said they always respond to this feedback.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam and conducted by an independent research firm. The poll includes responses from 150 executives with the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

Executives were asked, "How often do you act on information gathered during exit interviews with departing employees?" Their answers: 

Always 13%
Somewhat frequently 62%
Rarely 16%
Never 1%
Do not conduct exit interviews 5%
Don't know 3%

"Assuming the departing employee has no ax to grind, information gleaned during exit interviews can give companies valuable insight on topics such as office morale," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. "Those who are leaving may alert management to sensitive issues that current workers might be reluctant to discuss for fear of upsetting a supervisor or losing their jobs. Taking action on this feedback can minimize future turnover."

Domeyer offers the following five tips for an effective exit interview:  

  • Set the stage - Meet in a neutral location and make it clear that information will not be used against exiting workers. Explain that their insight can help to improve your organization.
  • Consider a third party - Even an employee who is leaving may feel uncomfortable discussing certain topics, such as office politics, with his or her current supervisor. It may be wise to bring in a human resources representative to conduct the interview.
  • Act on serious situations - Never ignore a departing employee's claim of mistreatment or discrimination. Refer the matter to your internal legal or HR department for investigation.
  • Ask the right questions - Use open-ended, general questions at first, but be prepared to get specific. For example, if an employee expresses dissatisfaction with management structure, you need to pinpoint the source of his or her feelings in order to act on them.
  • Take emotions into account -- Depending on whether the employee left on good terms, exit interviews should be viewed as one of many information sources. A hidden agenda could influence what a former staff member says during an interview.

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