I had someone send me an e-mail asking for recommendations for vendors to do exit interviews. I’ve never worked with a vendor for that, so I have no idea. (I’m sure he’d appreciate your input, though, so comment away!)
But, he also asked: 2) What is the best method (direct contact with term’d employee, websurvey or paper survey)?
Excellent question. First, let me tell you about my love/hate relationship with exit interviews. I’m a data girl, through and through. (Kind of sounds super-heroish, doesn’t it? It’s Data Girl! She’s brought her SPSS and Excel spreadsheets to save they day!) I like data.
But, as they say, the plural of anecdote is not data and unfortunately exit interviews tend to be little more than collected anecdotes.
We know that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of their direct supervisors. But, I’ve never seen that as a number one reason on any report of aggregated exit interview information. The number one reason I always see popping up? “Opportunity.”
Personally, I think opportunity is about the last reason people start looking for that new job in the first place. After all, if that opportunity doesn’t come with a bigger pay check and a less insane boss you’re not going to take it. If you are satisfied with your current job you are not going to start looking.
Because the biggest reason to leave is management and that information isn’t accurately recorded in an exit interview, we have to glean what we can from the other data. But, since even the worst of managers rarely have more than a handful of people working for them, it’s difficult to tell whether that one person who left for “opportunity” had really just outgrown the job or if the manager was a raging lunatic. We can put information together and aggregate it at high levels, but this doesn’t always give you real information that you can act on.
Always, always ask for primary, secondary and tertiary reasons for terminating. This helps you identify things like salary, benefits, work hour and company culture issues.
Keep in mind that most people know they can’t burn any bridges and they will assume that anything they say in an exit interview can end up back at the desk of the offending boss. “But we promise confidentiality!” you say. Hogwash. You can promise all you want, but they won’t believe you.
The reason they wont’ believe you is that they are smart. They know they are the only person from that boss to quit in 2009, so if you give any “feedback” to said supervisor he’s going to know it comes from you.
So, paper, face to face or online?
No, yes, yes.
Aren’t I helpful? I like the face to face because people will spill things in casual conversation and you can read their facial expressions.
Paper? Only if your employees don’t have individual computer access. Give them an online survey to fill out prior to their last day. Then you don’t have data entry costs to pull the info together.
Online, see above. But, I’d like, ideally, to take it one step further. Ask for an e-mail address for the employee in our original survey. Then, after they’ve been gone for 6 months, send them a new survey to fill out.
Why? Because they are removed from the situation and have a new perspective. The “perfect” new job now has the real boss and the real co-workers and the real projects to go with the idealism. Asking them what they thought of the last job at this point is going to give you a different view.
And what do you do with all this information? Well, there is no point in gathering it if you are not going to act. Trends need to be dealt with. Groups with high turnover need to be looked at more closely. Numerous salary complaints (and ask about new salary–they may or may not tell you, but ask) or indications that people are leaving for a LOT more money needs to be dealt with.
But, you cannot go to the one manager who was identified as the reason for termination and tell them. Even though no one believes you will keep the information confidential, it’s critical that you do. But, it’s also critical that you find other ways to deal with your bad managers. Otherwise, why ask?