Why in-house exit interviews do not yield insights?

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Traditionally, exit interviews are done by the in-house HR teams. The objective is to capture the employees’ feedback at the time of leaving. This is done on the last day in most organisations and is a one on one session with the HR SPOC. The level in the organisational hierarchy determines who from the HR team will conduct the interview for the exiting employee. This feedback is captured for further review and action planning for the organisation.
However, there is another school of thought, where exit interview is a post mortem and is a useless time consuming activity which provides no relevant or adequate information for the organisation to take any actions.

In either case, it’s not the exit interview process that is useless. Organisations don’t see value in this process because the current methodology doesn’t yield the insights that the management or HR teams need to be able to make necessary people, policy or process changes. Some of the common reasons are:

People don’t want to burn bridges – Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in a small world. The fear that the feedback will reach specific individuals, fear that this may impact the reference feedback, fear that they may have to work with this individual again in the same organisation or in a different organisation are some of the reasons why exiting employees do not share open and honest feedback especially when it comes to people issues. The challenge here is that no corrective action can be taken unless specific issues are identified and addressed. Since the truth never surfaces, this often gets masked under a plethora of uncontrollable factors, especially in large organisations.

It’s not high priority for HR – The HR SPOC’s are dragged into multiple transactional activities beginning with recruitment right through the employee’s life cycle. While every HR person believes that retaining talent is the most important task for HR teams in any organisation, the bandwidth available to focus on this key aspect and the systemic support to ensure that this remains on the radar always are deterrents. In some instances, exit interviews have been reduced to a mere formality.

Consistency – In most organisations, multiple HR SPOC’s conduct exit interviews. While, the process has been defined to allow the HR person working with the team to conduct the exit interview, the questioning ability, probing and gathering relevant feedback is inconsistent. Lack of adequate information is one of the main reasons why current exit processes don’t provide required insights.

What can be done?

Train HR – It is very important to upskill HR teams to be able to deliver value to the organisation and the business that they support. Conducting exit interviews is one of the key deliverables for the HR teams and hence they need to be equipped to meet organisational expectations.

Seek help – There are experts in the industry who are willing to step in as consultants and work within the exiting process/policy framework. Challenges can be identified and corrective actions can be defined.

Outsource – Work with an outsourced partner to get meaningful insights. The rigour and discipline that an outsourced partner can bring to the process will be higher than doing it internally. It also frees up the HR bandwidth to deal with the identified issues, which is the most critical part after capturing feedback. Focussed interventions will yield desired results and the ROI can be measured. Industry best practices and benchmarks are available for comparison.

By Ashana

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