The best ways to gather feedback from leavers

There is a retention crisis at the moment – organisations are struggling to hold on to their talent. Gathering feedback from leavers is critical if you want to identify ways to reduce unwanted employee turnover or attrition. These are the best ways to gather feedback from leavers.

Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are the best known method for gathering feedback from leavers.

An exit interview is a conversation between the leaver and someone from the organisation, usually the line manager or HR.

The key benefits of using exit interviews to gather feedback from leavers

Exit Interviews make leavers feel as though they ‘have had their say’

Whilst we do see examples of organisations where people leave on a high, often in retail where people are employed on a seasonal basis, in most circumstances we can probably assume that when an employee decides to leave an organisation it is because they felt a degree of dissatisfaction with some aspect of working there. In this case having the opportunity of a face to face meeting with someone from the company can provide leavers with a sense that the organisation cares about their experiences.

Exit interviews may encourage leavers to open up more

A skilled interviewer is more likely to encourage leavers to open up by establishing rapport and empathy and really listening to what the leaver has to say. Where people feel listened to they are more likely to express their true feelings. The skilful use of probing questions can then encourage the leaver to share even more detail.

Exit interviews can be used to deal with other leaver admin

Having the leaver in the room can provide an opportunity to carry out other tasks and admin that needs to be done when people leave. For example, returning equipment owned by the organisation and confirming final pay details etc.

Exit interviews can improve the job handover process

When people leave an organisation they take significant knowledge with them. They may have been involved in projects that will continue after they have left, or they may have the best knowledge around key tasks or processes that are needed to carry out the role effectively. The exit interview can provide the opportunity to detail any specifics around project milestones and tasks etc.

The main downsides of exit interviews

Exit interviews have three significant downsides.

Exit interviews take up a lot of time and resource

With exit interviews someone has to arrange the interview. This is usually an internal admin resource and can be difficult when people have either left or are about to leave.

Someone then has to physically conduct the interview. Most organisations either rely on the line manager or HR to do that.

Most decent exit interviews are then likely to take up to an hour and the capability of the interviewer has a major impact on the effectiveness of the interview.

Once you have completed the interview you will then need to record the output, either by documenting it or transferring it into some other kind of system.

Exit interviews are not perceived to be anonymous

People are much more likely to be open and honest where they feel their feedback is anonymous. Imagine you have resigned because your employee experience has been negative. Most employees will find it naturally difficult to feed that back to the company. Employees will either prefer to avoid the potential for an uncomfortable conversation or they will fear some form of recrimination (either their manager seeking them out for a confrontation, or the fear of a poor reference).

As a result, our experience shows that many leavers tend to either turn down the opportunity for an exit interview, or they significantly modify their feedback as they don’t want to burn any bridges.

It is difficult to get consistent and high quality data with an exit interview

Exit interviews can be fairly unstructured in how they are carried out. Even where the interviewer has a defined set of exit interview questions to ask, the conversation is often dominated by what the interviewee wants to say. At the end of the day the key exit interview question is “why are you leaving?” and this is usually where the interviewee will spend most of their time and energy. This makes capturing exit interview data difficult as it is often made up of lots of qualitative comments.

This means that exit interview data can be inconsistent and difficult to analyse. Even where it is captured in a consistent format, it can be extremely time-consuming to collate the information and then make sense of it. 

Telephone Exit Interviews

Telephone exit interviews are still a conversation between the leaver and someone from the organisation, they are just done over the phone (or something such as Teams or Zoom) rather than in person.

As such, telephone interviews have the same benefits and downsides as face to face exit interviews.

One difference is that organisations will be more likely to outsource telephone-based exit interviews. Whilst this can save internal resource it does increase the cost slightly.

Online exit surveys 

With online exit surveys leavers are asked to answer your exit interview questions through an online questionnaire or survey rather than during an interview.

This makes them much more efficient and cost-effective than face-to-face or telephone exit interviews and is a great option if you are looking to outsource your exit interview process.

Why you should use an online exit survey to outsource your exit interviews

Online exit surveys overcome all of the downsides of face to face and telephone exit interviews making them an extremely cost-effective way to outsource your exit interview process. 

Online exit surveys take up a lot less time and resource than exit interviews

Exit surveys can be deployed easily to a large number of people. All they involve is sending out a survey link to leavers.

Online surveys are more anonymous than exit interviews

People are much more likely to be open and honest where they feel their feedback is anonymous. Completing a survey is quicker for the leaver and it is totally anonymous as they do not have to give their name and they can complete the survey in private whenever they want.

Online exit surveys create higher quality data than exit interviews

The nature of an online survey means that feedback from leavers is captured in the same format every time.

Capturing exit data online also means the data can be made much more accessible through a platform such as our reporting dashboard.

Our reporting dashboard makes accessing and playing around with your exit survey data significantly easier than any other approach used for exit interviews.

ways to gather feedback from leavers

The downsides of using an online exit survey

There are two downsides to using an online exit survey.

Online exit surveys limit the ability to probe

As mentioned above, a skilled interviewer can explore and qualify feedback from leavers by probing further. Of course an online survey can include open questions and if these are carefully designed then they will do the job of probing for further information.

Online exit survey feel a little impersonal

The other downside of online exit surveys is an emotional one. An online exit survey can feel a little impersonal from the perspective of the leaver. Of course, this can also be a strength as this is what makes the survey feel more anonymous and ‘safe’. We also find that many HR people feel the need to meet with leavers as they feel it is the right thing to do.

So which is the best way to gather feedback from leavers?

We have outlined pros and cons for the best three methods for gathering feedback from leavers.

At the end of the day the option you feel is best is down to the option you feel will best suit your organisation culture, the amount of resource you have and the type of data you feel will be most useful.

Of course, we advocate the use of online exit surveys to outsource your exit interview process as they address all of the downsides of exit interviews with a lot fewer downsides.