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5 Best Exit Interview Questions to Ask Your Employees

Big Think Edge | July 12, 2018

Employees leaving is the reality for many businesses. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), many organizations do not hold exit interviews — or, if they do, they don’t analyze the data they collect or share that data for senior leaders to act on it. These inactions squander precious opportunities to learn from exiting employees about why they are leaving, or what the organization can change or improve to prevent it from happening with other valued employees in the future.

Exit interviews provide a level of insight that you likely will not receive from actively employed workers. People who are leaving are more likely to speak candidly because they are no longer afraid of the possibility of employer or managerial retribution.

5 of the Best Exit Interview Questions to Ask Exiting Employees

The best exit interview questions are those that elicit responses that are more than “yes” or “no” answers and help you to address workplace challenges. If you do need to ask yes/no questions, be sure to immediately follow them with another question asking how or why they responded as they did. Asking secondary exit interview questions like this will provide you with greater insights as to how or why people come to make certain decisions.

1) What led you to seek employment elsewhere?

While this question is seemingly fundamental, it can provide significant insight into any issues that may exist within your overall organization or a particular department. It also can show when things are going well within your organization and if an issue may exist with the employee and not your organization. Examples of why someone may choose to leave include:

  • The position is not a “good fit” for the employee;
  • There may be discrepancies between employee-employer expectations concerning a position;
  • A perceived lack of leadership, managerial incompetence, or other related concerns;
  • Micromanagement or overbearing leadership;
  • Employees feeling undervalued or poorly compensated.

If the thought of losing your employees is a major concern, try the 10-second regrettable talent departure test. In addition to helping you recognize the employee’s value, it also makes you face whether your company is investing enough in the career path of this star (and others like them).

2) How inclusive do you think (your organization) is for employees of different backgrounds and perspectives?

“Diversity & inclusion” is a hot-button topic that clumps together two separate issues. Diversity is making sure you hire people of different backgrounds, sexes, ethnicities, etc. Inclusiveness, on the other hand, is about giving those people genuine roles in the business through an environment that welcomes them, values their input, and enables them to help make a difference.

Asking this question as part of the exit interview can help you to know if your organization’s diversity & inclusion initiatives are working, or what needs to be addressed.

3) Do you feel like you had the tools, resources, and working conditions available to succeed in your role? If not, how could these areas be improved?

Everyone wants to feel valued. Training everyone and not just the 5% of employees provides organizations (and their employees) with a variety of benefits, including:

  • Increasing employee morale,
  • Contributing to greater organizational and employee productivity,
  • Creating an organizational culture of learning, and
  • Increasing employee agility and foster curiosity.

4) What did you enjoy most about your job here?

This simple and straightforward question helps you to identify what is working well within your organization. Does your organization provide employees with a sense of purpose in the workplace? Do they feel like they are part of something and that what they do matters? Do they have opportunities to learn and grow?

5) What could we have done differently to get employees like you to want to stay?

According to Big Think expert Dan Ariely, while compensation is an integral consideration in the employment process, it should not be the be-all, end-all of priorities. Instead, motivation is an essential part of the process that is often ignored in lieu of trying to figure out competitive wages:

“Nobody is thinking innovatively about how we get people to care. Sure, money is one way, but it’s only one way. And, I think these compensation consulting companies are just making things worse and they’re just making everybody pay the same, not taking really into account the truly vast array of possible human motivations.”

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