Why and How the Exit Interview Should be Used as a Retention Tool

There are generally two ways that an employee leaves an organization. Either their employer fires or lays them off . . . or they leave of their own accord.

When an employee is fired or laid off, there is no exit interview. (After all, company officials already know why the employee is leaving.) However, when the employee leaves of their own accord, there is typically such an interview.

In a perfect world, an Animal Health or Veterinary organization would never conduct an exit interview. That’s because it would mean that organization never has an employee who leaves of their own accord. As we all know, though, we do not live in a perfect world and that is certainly not the case. There are a few reasons why this is not the case:

#1—The state of the employment marketplace overall

We are, as I’ve stated on many previous occasions, in a candidates’ market. That means all job seekers and candidates have more options and the best candidates have the most options and the best options. That also means their current employment with your organization is just one of many options available to them.

#2—The state of the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession specifically

There is a lack of quality candidates in many areas within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. That has created a situation in which workers have even more options from which to choose.

#3—The Millennial Generation of workers

It’s a well-documented fact that Millennials change jobs more often than members of other generations in the workforce. In fact, some of them change jobs as frequently as every 18 months to two years. Staying five years at the same organization would be considered long-term employment for this group.

So . . . how should you view the exit interview? And how should you use it to better your organization?

Why are they leaving?

After taking all of these factors into consideration, it is inevitable that some employees are going to leave your organization of their own will and volition. Those employees can be broken down into a few different categories:

  1. They’re leaving not necessarily for an opportunity that is clearly better than what they have, but because there is something about your organization that they do not like and that has convinced them to leave.
  2. They’re leaving because even though they enjoy working for your organization, they have found an opportunity that is clearly better than their current situation.
  3. They are leaving both because there is something about your organization that they do not like and that has convinced them to leave AND because they’ve found an opportunity that is clearly better than their current situation.

No matter the category into which your departing employee falls, you should use the exit interview to dig up the exact reasons why the employee is leaving. This information is vital. That’s because you can use it to address shortcomings within the organization, and doing so will perhaps prevent other employees from leaving in the future.

Now you might be asking, “Stacy, what about those employees that leave, but we’re not heartbroken about. In other words, they weren’t superstars and they didn’t contribute tremendous amounts of value.”

It would be impractical (not to mention impossible) to be heartbroken about every single employee that departs. In fact, company officials are sometimes glad when certain employees leaves. That’s just a fact of life and business. However, that does mean you shouldn’t put stock in what they have to say during the exit interview.

The reason: they might help you to uncover a problem within the organization, one that might eventually convince one of your superstars to leave, as well.

And you would be sad about that.

Exit interview questions to ask

So that brings us to our next series of questions:

  1. How should you conduct an exit interview?
  2. What information should you seek to discover?
  3. What questions should you ask?

Exit interviews should be conducted in person and not online, via email, or any other way. (Employee satisfaction surveys are for current employees, not soon-to-be-former employees.) In the majority of cases, the departing employee meets with a representative of the Human Resources department on a one-on-one basis. This is done for confidentiality reasons.

In terms of information, start by identifying which type of situation you’re facing, based upon the three categories of departing employees listed at the top of this blog post. In other words, you want to know why the employee is leaving and how much of the reason can be directly attributed to how they view your organization. Basically, you want to find out their viewpoints regarding the following things:

  • The work that they did on a daily basis
  • Their manager, boss, or supervisor
  • The company culture
  • The organization’s HR practices
  • Their level of compensation, including salary, benefits, and perks

You can uncover this information using a number of different questions, as well as various questioning methods (open-ended vs. specific, for example).

Open-ended questions:

Why have you decided to leave the company?

Was there something specific or a single incident that convinced you to leave?

What did you like about your employment tenure with the organization?

What did you not like about your employment tenure with the organization?

Questions about the job (the work they did on a daily basis):

Were the expectations for your job set properly at the start of your employment?

What did you like most about your job?

What did you like least about your job?

Were you given all of the tools and resources you needed to do your job? If not, what were you lacking?

Did you receive adequate feedback regarding your work performance?

Questions about their manager, boss, or supervisor:

How would you characterize the relationship you had with your immediate supervisor?

What would you say your supervisor could do to improve?

What are your thoughts about the management or leadership style of the organization overall?

Questions about the company culture:

Was the company’s mission statement and core values clearly communicated to you?

Did you feel that the organization’s core values lined up with your own? If not, why not?

How would you describe your morale level while working here?

How could we create a better company culture and workplace?

Questions about the organization’s HR practices:

Did the organization’s policies create a fair workplace environment?

Did the HR department do a good job of communicating important information?

Did you have any situations or incidents that required the involvement of HR?

Questions about their level of compensation, including salary, benefits, and perks:

Were you satisfied with your compensation? If not, why not?

Do you believe you received enough recognition during your employment?

What suggestions do you have for us in the areas of compensation and recognition?

While exit interviews are a reminder that turnover does exist, no matter how great your organization might be, it’s also an excellent opportunity to gain valuable information. This is information you can use to improve in all areas so that you increase the chances that the next time you hire a superstar candidate, you successfully retain that candidate as a longer-term employee.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.