Exit Interview Surveys – Why An Online Form Makes Sense

Written by Paul Quinn, Founder, PeoplePulse


Human resource (HR) departments typically conduct exit interview surveys to gather information from departing employees to help the company improve working conditions, retain existing employees and identify problem areas within the organisation. One of the great aspects of exit interviews is that the departing employee often feels less concerned about the ramifications of ‘treading on toes’ and hence is typically willing to provide extremely open and honest feedback about their reasons for leaving and their thoughts about what the company could do to improve.

However, while exit interviews clearly have their place and are a vital tactic for any organisation serious about retaining their staff, there are many pitfalls to avoid. Some of the key challenges that companies face in conducting exit interviews include:

1. Interviewer bias: The person charged with asking the questions may not be 100% impartial or may have negative preconceived notions about the departing employee.

2. Interpretation: Often, the departing employee says ‘X’, yet the interviewer writes down ‘Y’. They hear what they want to hear and record what they want to record.

3. Data entry: Often the person responsible for interviewing the departing employee is at Management level, and places a low priority on data entering the results of the exit interview into a centralised system that authorised Managers can access.

4. Reporting: As notes are typically hand written, there is not one central place where all exit interview data is stored. The data also needs to be held on secured servers (as the information is often sensitive) and results accessible to only those with appropriate privileges.

5. Consistency: Without a standard exit interview questionnaire, the questions asked and information collected can vary wildly.

6. Confronting: The departing employee can sometimes feel as if it’s too confronting to provide open and honest feedback face-to-face, especially if the interviewer is personally known to the employee or if the interviewer has a good working relationship with the departing employee’s Manager.

7. Timing: If the departing employee leaves the organisation suddenly, the task of conducting the exit interview is often overlooked. However, employees departing in this manner still have valuable information and feedback to contribute.

So, what can be done to help minimise these pitfalls?

Enter the centralised Exit Interview process.
Today many companies are turning towards a centralised online exit interview process. In simple terms, once an employee leaves the organisation (or in the final weeks of their tenure) the following steps occur:

1. HR is notified of the departing employee’s name / last day of work.

2. HR e-mail the departing employee a link to a structured online exit interview survey, and ask that they complete it at a time that suits them over the next 1-2 weeks maximum. The survey form is pre-coded with the employee’s name, their division, their Manager’s name, and their location so that HR can easily report and filter results by this information.

3. As soon as the survey has been completed, HR is notified by e-mail, AND, the survey results are automatically entered into an online database where reports can be run and charts produced.

4. (Optional) – HR can phone the departing employee if any matters raised in their feedback survey require further investigation.

5. (Optional) – HR can then invite the departing employee’s Manager or the ‘Next Up’ Manager to review the feedback and add any further comments into a separate section of the same survey (this section cannot be viewed by the departing employee).

6. HR then log online and run date-defined reports to review cumulative exit interview results, spot trends, and measure the change in ratings over time for the whole company, or broken down by department or location. Key areas of weakness are spotted and an action plan to address developed.

When we map this online process against the traditional problem areas of decentralised exit interviews highlighted above, we find it addresses many of the challenges faced:

1. Interviewer bias: Problem removed – the interview is in the form of an online survey.

2. Interpretation errors: Problem removed – what the departing employee types is exactly what HR report on.

3. Data entry: Problem removed – the online survey stores the exact data and ratings entered by the departing employee. Management’s data entry requirement is removed.

4. Reporting access: Problem removed – anyone given authorisation can access the results from any web browser in the World, at any time, with the data securely held on encrypted servers.

5. Consistency: Problem removed – the exit interview survey issued is the same for all employees.

6. Confronting: Problem removed – the departing employee can complete the survey in their own time, at their own pace, without feeling like they need to sugar coat the tone or nature of their comments to meet the expectations of the interviewer.

7. Quick Departures: Problem removed – if an employee departs suddenly, the survey can still easily be sent and administered remotely in the days or weeks following the departure.

In short, a well constructed exit interview process can provide invaluable insight, improve employee retention levels, and should be a mandatory consideration for any employer serious about improving employee satisfaction levels.

Why not have a look at PeoplePulse today?

If you are interested in a demonstration of full featured online survey software offered by a full service provider, please request a demo.

Read more about our exit survey solutions.

Alternatively contact PeoplePulse on ph +61 2 9232 0172 to discuss how we may be able to help you

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Employee Opinion Surveys – Go Ask Your People