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Diversity and Inclusion

Boost honesty at exit interviews

🤦 Most companies fail at making departures constructive.
This is a major missed opportunity to gather feedback that can help you be better, both as a leader and as a business.

And there’s an uglier side: it’s likely that you’ll create negativity in the team that stays behind if you fail to listen and act constructively when talent is lost.

It’s particularly important to get offboarding right when the person leaving your business is from an underrepresented group.

🤔 Why?

Because their feedback could point to more systemic inclusion issues, which will hold you back from retaining diverse talent moving forward.

And, by the way, it’s common for businesses to see disproportionately high turnover among people from racial and ethnic minorities, as reported by the likes of Google, EY and the Bank of England.

Read on to learn how to boast honesty at exit interviews that maximize candor and learnings and in the process builds a culture of openness and trust with the team that stays behind.

First of all, let’s hear about the heart of the process, the exit interview. Exit interviews are often discredited but, with a few considerations, can be made much more valuable. The 3 Min HR Podcast tackles this faster than you can say “should someone bake a cake?”.

The podcast highlights the golden objective of the exit interview – to get honest and constructive information. Now, if you did manage to get Joan in the room, here are our top tips to get this part of the offboarding loop right.

👂 Choose someone the leaver trusts to conduct the exit interview. Ideally, it’s someone on their level. Do not choose the leaver’s manager!

👂 Keep a very open format to the first part of the interview so the leaver can explore topics they wish to. However, closed questions can tease out responses too. Eg, “Would you stay if your salary was 10% higher? 20%?”

👂 Organize a formal review of anonymized outputs from exit interviews. If possible, review several exit interviews at a time to protect anonymity and make trends apparent. The goal of the review should be to decide on actions that will retain talent.

👂 Prompt constructively critical remarks but keep the tone comfortable. Below, we’ve transformed three of the most common exit interview questions into more sophisticated tools to get to the truth.

“What made you begin to look for a new role?”
instead of “Why are you leaving?” as they’ll gush about their new role.

“To benefit your team / successor, what should we invest more in?”
instead of “Were you equipped to do your job?” as most don’t want to complain or suggest they were incapable with what they had!

“What qualities do you think we should look for in your replacement?”
instead of “What were the demands of your role that weren’t captured by your job description?”. Eg, an answer of “thick skin” could be very telling about the criticisms the leaver experienced.

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The bottom line?

There are many strategies you can deploy to boost honesty at the exit interview: get someone the leaver trusts to conduct it, keep an open format, provide an avenue to get anonymous feedback, and ask the right, non-intrusive questions.

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Boost honesty at exit interviews

If you run exit interviews as part of your offboarding, what kinds of useful insights have you learned from them? If you aren’t doing exit interviews, are there any specific obstacles in your way? Share your experience, comments, or whatever else you’d like to share here.

We’d love to hear from you!

Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.