What to Do After the Exit Interview

You know you’re supposed to conduct exit interviews. And you may actually be doing them. But too often, the results are parked in a drawer never to be looked at again, says Nora Akins, who does HR consulting and training in Indiana and the Chicago area. Once the interviews are conducted, you need to analyze them to identify patterns that call for rectifying a situation. Common reasons for leaving — better pay, “personal” reasons, moving — can be a signal that something more serious is afoot.

Here are typical reasons people cite for leaving, what they can really mean, and what you should do.

Personal reasons

In one case, Akins noticed that a number of people were leaving because of a difficult person.”Sometimes people would say it’s personal and didn’t want to talk about it,” Akins says. Once she saw the pattern, she compared the numbers by department and analyzed “positive, negative and neutral” exits. Then, she brought the numbers to the attention of the CEO. In the end, she was able to fire the offending supervisor.

Pay

Frequently, when an employee says he is leaving for more money, it is a last plea for a raise, says Akins. But she warns against being tempted to concede to the employee’s demands.”I’ve found I was able to keep them for a short period of time, but that within a year, they were gone,” she says.

More on pay

There is another reason for not negotiating for giving a raise to an outgoing employee: When an employee says he is leaving for better pay, it is usually not the case, says Akins.”Frequently, they don’t know the reason for leaving. Nine times out of 10 there is another reason,” she says.

Institutional company culture

Akers talks about one place where a supervisor was allowed to thrive, yet there were serious problems. Akers was brought in when there were seven EEOC complaints at the company; she was able to effect change by showing the CEO that more cases could be brought against the company.

Moving

When an outgoing employee says he is leaving because he is moving, it’s time to dig deeper.”Sometimes it’s because their spouse found another position,” says Akers. “But sometimes it’s because they got another position, because they wanted to leave you.” If that’s the case, you need to try to find out the real reason.

Length of employment

If a worker is leaving after only 120 days or less of employment, look at training as a possible reason.”Also, does the position make sense?” Akins asks. “I have seen people leave positions who were doing clerical work for multiple departments,” she says, pointing out that such a situation can make it difficult to do their work, politically and otherwise.

Informal company culture

Informal company culture can be a more difficult issue to identify, but it can be critical. Akins tells of a talented graphics artist who lasted one day because other employees were playing tricks on him. Wen she went to him and tried to convince him to return, the graphics artist said those were not the kinds of people he wanted to work with.

No response

One of the toughest – but most important –  interviews are the ones you can’t get. When a former worker doesn’t respond to a request for an interview, you need to try to find out why, particularly if there is a pattern.