Is the Exit Interview Too Late

wall art departed showing the exit interview

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I recently published an article about “Exit Interviews: Ask Employees About Their Experience”. Soon after, I received a very interesting comment from an HR Bartender reader.

Interesting post about exit interviews. But as I see it from the other side of the table, if I thought that my employer was interested in what I had to say then I would probably still be there. I see an exit interview as something that can only hurt me and cannot help me.

I completely get it. One of the reasons that an employee might be leaving is because they feel that their voice isn’t heard.

I also know plenty of organizations that ask the question, and the employee doesn’t respond. Either the employee feels that they don’t know what to say or simply don’t want to contribute to the conversation. Because – as the reader mentioned in their note – they feel it would do more harm than good.

Individuals and organizations must think about employee departures differently. It’s not about ending a relationship. It’s about changing it.

– Sharlyn Lauby

Unfortunately, this lack of communication hurts everyone. It hurts the employee because they don’t feel their feedback has value. The employee might have a terrific idea to save the company money or improve customer service. But because they don’t feel anyone will listen, it doesn’t get shared. In addition, the company suffers because not only did they not hear the great idea, but the employee will eventually get frustrated and leave.

Gautam Ghosh wrote a nice article titled “The Voluntary Employee Exit Process: The often-ignored part of building a relationship”. What I like about the article is the “building the relationship” part. Individuals and organizations must think about employee departures differently. It’s not about ending a relationship. It’s about changing it. Former employees can refer customers and candidates. Former employees might decide to come back as a freelancer or rehire.

Some people might say this is exactly why they follow this reader’s advice and keep their mouth shut. But not saying something doesn’t give anyone the chance to listen and possibly act. The good news is that there are many other opportunities for employees to provide feedback before the exit interview:

  1. New hire surveys or check-ins. It’s very common for managers to check in with new hires to make sure that they feel welcome and are getting all the information they need.
  2. Employee engagement surveys. Many companies have annual employee surveys to anonymously ask employees about their work environment and experience.
  3. Stay interviews. Managers will often ask employees what they like about working for the company. If an employee doesn’t want to complain, be sure to tell the company what they’re doing well.
  4. Skip level interviews. This is when an employee meets with their manager’s boss. Sometimes it can be great to share ideas with someone other than your immediate supervisor.
  5. Training evaluations. Many evaluation forms ask if you have suggestions for future training topics. If you’re ideas or concerns are related to training, be sure to share your thoughts.
  6. Mentoring and coaching. If someone is struggling with how to present their concerns, talking with a coach or mentor could be helpful. In fact, I’ve had employees talk with HR about how to present ideas.

While I don’t believe that the exit interview is too late in terms of sharing feedback, I do understand how others might feel that way. Just remember that there are plenty of other opportunities to share your thoughts and ideas. I’d hate to hear that an employee left the organization because they were frustrated that no one listened to them only to discover that they never used the feedback channels that were always available.

Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the Learning and Development League Annual Conference in Delhi, India


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