Trouble With Exit Interviews? Here’s How to Take a 21st Century Approach

The tradition of conducting exit interviews with employees has always served as a pulse check of the company.

Many Human Resource professionals feel exit interviews are necessary in the ongoing attempt to measure employee satisfaction and to explain turnover trends. With today’s demanding economy and reduced workforce, spending the time to sit down with an employee for an exit interview may not be HR’s top priority.

Is there a happy medium that can produce the required benefits without the loss of time spent by your HR staff during the interview? Online exit surveys can offer more benefits then traditional interviews and end up catering to not only the employer but to the former employee also.

4 steps to building an online exit survey

For several years now, companies in various industries have analyzed guest and product satisfaction online with email surveys. Companies acknowledge the high volume response in combination with honest raw answers that they would not typically be provided with in person.

Exit surveys can be compared with these customer and product satisfaction surveys since all focus on the same topics, rating how a company is doing and finding out how they can improve. The problems lie in the fact that many companies might be unaware of the proper steps to create and deliver an online exit survey in addition to the potential benefits that can be gained, but in a time when your employees text, Facebook and Tweet more in a day then they speak face to face – it’s the right time to start using the technology that can get you the highest amount of honest answers.

There are four steps required to building an effective and efficient online exit survey including:

  1. Building your question base;
  2. Selecting a hosting site that works for you;
  3. Carefully wording your email; and,
  4. Collecting the finalized data.

Step 1: Building the question base

Creating the set of questions that will be prompted in your survey is the first and potentially most important aspect of building your online exit survey.

Exit questions may already be readily available from the set that is currently used in your exit interview process. Depending on your company’s focus, questions may target one specific topic, like reason for separation, or overall satisfaction with work experience, or questions can be mixed to cover several points of concern.

Regardless of what topics are covered during the survey, the format of the answers should be strongly considered. Tailoring the answer’s format can turn a yes or no answer to a 1-5 point scale rating or open response answer.

Different companies will desire different types of data, some might want data to be highly statistical and comments minimized while others find it important to understand why a former employee rated an answer a 4 and not a 5. It is import to remember the purpose of the survey and how the company plans to use the results while selecting the questions.

Additionally, remember to choose the questions carefully as you should plan to be respectful of the former employee’s time and interest, ten minutes is a good average time for how long it should take to complete the survey.

Step 2: Selecting a hosting site

Selecting a hosting site on which to post your survey is the second step to creating an online exit survey. A hosting site can offer different presentation types of both the question and the data, so it is important to shop around until the right one is found.

Major sites like or both offer customization, including logo customization, email campaigns and survey logic to direct the questions the user will receive, so your survey can flow however you like. Some sites also offer free trials so a company can get a feel for the site prior to signing up.

Depending on the type of site and plan chosen, monthly plans can start around $20 and range up to $75 or more. Pricing varies depending on the amount of questions and responses, how data will be presented once collected, and the amount of customer support needed. Shopping around can offer enough options for organizations to enable them to determine what tools exists and which ones they desire.

Step 3: Wording your email

The next step focuses primarily on the former employee and wording the email instructions so that the survey is well received.

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It is important to remember that both exit interviews and surveys are not mandatory and since the former employee is not obligated to participate, it is then in the company’s best interest to word the email positively. Words like termination, fired or quit should all be avoided and replaced with a more positive word like separation.

Basically, the instructional email should explain the company’s reason for the survey, state how long it will take to complete and end with a well wish and or a thank you. Stating that the company is trying to gain a better understanding of what caused the separation lets the employee know that their participation and reasoning means something to the company.

Saying you would appreciate the feedback provided by the survey displays that you are gracious of their participation and stating that it will take less than 10 minutes emphasizes the briefness of the survey. Wrapping up with “Thank you for your consideration” and or “we wish you well in your future endeavors” can add another positive spin on the email. Including a link is to the website is the last step in formatting your email and ensures that the process is simple for the former employee.

Step 4: Collecting the finalized data

The final process to consider while building an online exit survey is how often data will be collected.

Depending on the hosting site selected, data can be displayed in visual charts or simple numerical percentages. Data should be collected on a regular basis and should mirror any trends in the turnover rate for the company. If higher turnover is experienced in certain season’s data should be collected more often then so answers and comments can be decoded in a timely manner.

Online exit surveys should be treated like traditional exit interviews when it comes to collecting and organizing data. Keep in mind that the sooner a company’s HR departments can access survey responses the sooner potential unknown problems can be addressed.

Transitioning to online exit surveys

Following these four steps can ensure success in the transition to online exit surveys. While continuing to benefit companies by providing detailed responses from former employees, online exit interview offers more benefits than traditional approaches by reducing the overall time spent while adding a more comfortable home environment to the former employee.

The technology involved in online exit surveys offers a user friendly format for both companies and former employees and a competitive cost compared to the wage spent for the traditional interviewer. Data is collected automatically from the hosting site and then displayed and organized to best suite the company’s needs.

With all of the benefits that online exit surveys offers and free trials available it is surprising that companies still chose to conduct online interviews in person. In this time of online job postings and streaming live video interviews, human resources processes continue to be more technologically advance, by why stop at the hiring stage?

Welcome to the 21st century, where getting an interview online can be both during the hiring process and in the exit period.