3 Real Reasons HR Does Exit Interviews

The exit interview process is much like most organizations employee referral process. You believe you should have a process.  You design the process.  It’s going to be great! It starts out great.  At some point, soon after starting the process, it dies a slow horrible death!

Exit interviews are something every HR pro believes are important, but very few actually do a great job at.  The problem with most exit interview processes is that their very HR dependent and take a ton of follow through.   Another major problem is that while our executives say they want the data from the interviews, rarely do they believe what they are given.  Most chaulk bad interviews up to disgruntled employees and discount the entire process.

So, why do we give Exit Interviews?  I’ll give you three ‘real’ reasons HR wants to do exit interviews:

1. We want to know where you’re going!  Yep, HR folks love to gossip and we want to be the first ones to know where you’re going and why.

2. We trying to get your current manager fired!  You know what’s really frustrating in HR? Having to hire over and over again for the same bad managers!

3. We need data to look strategic. But we’ll never really make any changes based on what we find.  What? Everyone is leaving us because our competition across the street is providing more flexibility.  Yeah, well, they suck and you suck if you go to work for them!

Chalk this up to data that our executives say they want, but they really don’t!   What they want to hear is the problem our people are leaving us are easy fixes.  When they find out they’re leaving because of their bad leadership, every person who fills out an exit interview immediately becomes a piece of garbage in their eyes.

How do you fix this?

Do ever deliver specific exit interview data immediately after one person leaves, that seems to similar to why that person leaves.  Basically, you never get credit for that being real data.  Exit interview data only becomes ‘real’ when it’s based on a many data points put together.  The problem with that, is it takes most organizations a while to get that much data.  Usually, at that point, it starts to become vanilla.

Individual exit interview feedback can be powerful, but only if it is coming from a top player and you can get everyone involved to agree this is a top performer before the data comes in.  At least, at that point, you have a fighting chance to get them to listen and not discount the feedback.

Let’s face it, we all know most of our issues.  We just hate it when our past employees throw those in our face, when we think we’ve been working hard to correct them.   That kind of feedback is hard to accept, and we tend to discredit it way too fast.  Don’t allow yourself to believe data isn’t statistically significant unless you have a lot of it.  One great employee leaving is significant, and you need to listen to it.  Just know, the up hill battle you’ll face in actually creating the leadership change necessary to address it.


3 thoughts on “3 Real Reasons HR Does Exit Interviews

  1. Bob, I agree that the exit feedbacks should be differentiated for employees and for managers, but honestly, if an employee is leaving to find a better fit someplace else, this reflects on the direct manager and HR, too. The recruiter should have seen if the employee would be a good fit 100% and not just on the surface; the manager worked directly with the person and sure, the project might be limited, but in a company with more than 3 people, you can surely delegate tasks based on each employee’s passion, at least try.

  2. If we keep in mind the following data, then we can begin to grasp the problem of exit interviews.
    ● 80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
    ● 80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
    ○ The two 80 percents are closely related.

    The data above applies to supervisors, managers, and executives as well as their direct reports. The problem starts with hiring the wrong people to be our supervisors, managers, and executives who in turn hire the wrong people to be their direct reports. When employees quit or get fired 80% of them should not have been hired. Therefore, their exit interview comments will be seen as meaningless by supervisors, managers, and executives. Employees who do not fit their jobs do not know why they are not engaged so they presume that everyone but themselves is at fault. Hiring managers, however, should know before they make a job offer whether or not a new hire fits their job; if they don’t, don’t hire them.

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