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There’s no sugar coating it: the day your talented employee tells you they’re moving on will be tough. But as a business owner, there’s an opportunity to take their departure and use it to improve your business. How? 

The Exit Interview.

When an employee hands in their resignation, it’s typically their final move in a much longer process. They’ve probably been thinking about leaving for some time. They’ve been researching and even applying for other jobs. Maybe they already have a new role lined up. 

Your task now is to scratch beneath the surface and find out what drove them to startlooking elsewhere in the first place. There might be some external factors that you cannot control (family, moving home and so on). But there will also be some internal factors that you do have control over – in other words, the employee’s experience with your business. 

The exit interview is your opportunity to explore these. According to the Harvard Business Review, exit interviews are essential to provide “insight into what employees are thinking, reveal problems in the organisation, and shed light on the competitive landscape.”

Here are 7 questions you need to ask in every exit interview:

1)  Why did you start looking?

Rather than asking why they’re leaving, ask why they started looking for a new role. This takes the pressure off the employee as it doesn’t make them feel like they’re attacking the company (and you). You’re asking for the real reasons why they felt the need to move on, which will show you where you’re coming up short. 

2)  Did you have all the tools and training you needed to succeed?

If employees aren’t set up for success, their job becomes a source of frustration, which will soon drive them to look elsewhere. Find out what you’re doing right and wrong in terms of supporting your team with tools and training. This will help you identify gaps and areas for improvement.

3)  What could we have done better?

This question delves deeper, giving the employee a chance to provide advice on how you can improve. It could be around the type of training needed, how to be a good boss, provide better support, workplace conditions, and more. 

4)  What could we have done to keep you here?

This response will often reveal more reasons why they were dissatisfied with their job. Answers like better pay, more benefits, more training, less hours can give you concrete ideas on how to keep future employees for longer. There might even be subsidies and grants to help you.

5)  How do you feel your job description changed since you were hired? 

If your employee has been with you for a while, it’s inevitable that their job will have changed. Take this information and use it to update the job description for the new hire. That way you will recruit for the right skills. Learn more about the skills your business should be building into your future workforce in this article.

6)  What was the best / worst part of your job?

While the “worst part” will add to the constructive feedback on how you can improve the company, you can use the “best part” to promote the positive aspects of the job when you start hiring. 

7)  Any other issues or comments you’d like to address?

Always finish with an open-ended question. This invites the employee to discuss anything that might not have been addressed in other questions. It may reveal things you don’t want to hear or weren’t aware of. Remember, it’s best to get this out in the open so you can address any issues that might affect other employees. Get more advice on resolving workplace issues on the Fair Work website.

Next steps 

Exit interviews are not worth the time or effort if they are not used for positive change. Reflect on the insights you’ve gathered and use it to make changes in the company. Take a good look at your business culture and practices and see what you need to change to improve staff loyalty. They might be tough but look at this way: if you put the feedback to work, you will do fewer exit interviews in the future!


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