Exit Survey


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Conducting an Exit Survey - Why bother if they're already leaving?

Occasionally you hear the thoughts of a beaten down HR Manager's attitude toward exit surveys. It goes something like this:

'Who cares about what employees that are leaving our company think? The fact that we're letting them go means we didn't really want them anyway. Chances are they're a disgruntled staff member who will just use it as an opportunity to rant. So why should I listen to what they have to say about our business?'

Exit Survey

This attitude is short-sighted at best and highly damaging at worst. There are a range of flaws to this line of thinking. Here's a few for starters:

1. What do you do if you have a hole in your bucket? You plug it! (Fast)
Whilst a certain percentage of your departing staff may be considered 'Desired Departures', on the flip side a significant percentage of any organisation's departing staff can typically be categorised as 'Undesired Departures'. So if people you don't want to leave (eg. the valuable type that generate revenue or make significant contributions to the success of the organisation) go ahead and leave, you better be making it your business to find out what's prompted their decision.

2. A great opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
Nobody's perfect right? So if you do have a weakness with your organisation's training and development plans, or remuneration alignment with industry peers, or your onboarding process, do you stick your head in the sand like an Ostrich, or do you do the right thing. That would be to LISTEN … and preferably act on addressing the reoccurring weaknesses that you have uncovered.

3. The 'naked truth'.
With less fear about treading on toes of bosses and colleagues, the exit survey is a golden chance to understand the 'naked truth' form departing staff about what's really going on within your organisation.

4. A pulse on HR program effectiveness.
If a year ago your organisation had issues with its in-house training program, and over the course of the year HR invested significant time and expense on addresses this issue, wouldn't you want to know employees' thoughts on the impact of these changes. Wouldn't it be useful to see that the average score for 'in-house training' was 61% in 2009, but had risen to 76% in 2010 as a result of your renewed efforts? (Grounds for pay rise I'd say!) One valuable opportunity for this un-vetted feedback is the exit survey (see The 'naked truth' above).

5. Protect your employment brand and reputation.
When people leave they go elsewhere - sometimes to your competitors, sometimes to bar-b-ques or dinner parties where your future employees may be lurking. And they talk - they talk about their memory of your organisation. What lasting final memory do you want them to convey? One of an organisation that, even in the 11th hour, didn't bother to enquire about the reasons for your departure, and offer you an opportunity to have your say about how the organisation can improve? An organisation that really didn't care about what you thought?

I could go on … but I think you're getting my point.

With the total cost of departing staff widely accepted to be between 100% and 150% of their annual salary[1], it certainly makes good commercial sense to measure and track the reasons for their departure, and use this feedback to implement strategies to reduce the organisation's staff turnover rate.

A solid Exit Survey process will be designed to streamline your organisation's exit interview data collection and deliver you ongoing accurate and actionable reporting data for many years to come.

Written by Paul Quinn, of Quinntessential. © 2010.

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[1] Dr John Sullivan, professor of human resources, San Francisco State University