The “Real” Reasons Why HR Still Does Exit Interviews

The exit interview process is much like most organization’s employee referral process.

You believe you should have a process. You design the process. It’s going to be great! It starts out great. At some point, soon after starting the process, it dies a slow horrible death!

Exit interviews are something every HR pro believes are important, but very few actually do a great job at. The problem with most exit interview processes is that they are very HR dependent and take a ton of follow through.

3 reasons HR wants to do exit interviews

Another major problem is that while our executives say they want the data from the interviews, rarely do they believe what they are given. Most chalk up bad exit interviews to disgruntled employees and discount the entire process.

So, why do we give Exit Interviews? I’ll give you three “real” reasons HR wants to do exit interviews:

  1. We want to know where you’re going! Yep, HR folks love to gossip and we want to be the first ones to know where you’re going and why.
  2. We’re trying to get your current manager fired! You know what’s really frustrating in HR? Having to hire over and over again for the same bad managers!
  3. We need data to look strategic — but we’ll never really make any changes based on what we find. What? Everyone is leaving us because our competition across the street is providing more flexibility. Yeah, well, they suck and you suck if you go to work for them!

Chalk this up to data that our executives say they want, but they really don’t!

No easy fixes in exit interviews

What they want to hear is that the problem behind why our people are leaving us are easy fixes. When they find out they’re leaving because of their bad leadership, every person who fills out an exit interview immediately becomes a piece of garbage in their eyes.

How do you fix this?

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Do you ever deliver specific exit interview data immediately after one person leaves that seems similar to why another person leaves? Basically, you never get credit for that being real data. Exit interview data only becomes “real” when it’s based on many data points put together. The problem with that is it takes most organizations a while to get that much data, and usually at that point, it starts to become vanilla.

Individual exit interview feedback can be powerful, but only if it is coming from a top player and you can get everyone involved to agree this is a top performer before the data comes in. At least at that point, you have a fighting chance to get top management to listen and not discount the feedback.

A great employee leaving is significant

Let’s face it — we all know most of our issues. We just hate it when our past employees throw those in our face when we think we’ve been working hard to correct them. That kind of feedback is hard to accept, and we tend to discredit it way too fast.

Don’t allow yourself to believe data isn’t statistically significant unless you have a lot of it. One great employee leaving is significant, and you need to listen to why. Just know the uphill battle you’ll face in actually creating the leadership change necessary to address it.

This was originally published on The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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