Exit Interviews: A Better Way to Say Good Bye?

August 18, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Meeting with departing employees on their way out the door may not seem all that useful, but one consulting firm advises that such exit interviews could produce a treasure trove of valuable information.

Not only that, but a comprehensive exit interview program doesn’t have to further burden an already overloaded HR staff, asserts Aon Consulting in the firm’s September 2003 Forum newsletter. It may be well be worth shipping the entire function out to an outsourcing vendor.

While admitting that the benefits of a pre-employment interview are far more readily apparent, the Aon consultants suggested a number of concrete advantages of talking with workers before they leave the building for the last time. “A structured exit interview program can reap significant benefits by helping to identify problems and process improvements, as well as potential litigation issues,” Aon wrote in the article, The Advantages of Exit Interviews.

Potential benefits include:

  • The reasons employees give for leaving may be basic and reparable with the departing worker suggesting improvements, training tips, and shortcuts to fix the problems. For example, a departing employee may bring to your attention certain knowledge, skills, or abilities that a replacement should have but that are not in the current job description.
  • Turnover can spiral from perceived negativity and increased workloads resulting from departing employees. Exit interviews can help make those potential hot spots more apparent.
  • In addition, an exit interview may uncover discrimination and/or harassment concerns that you can proactively correct and prevent. By asking, documenting, and taking action, you reduce your litigation risk.
  • A departing top performer may return, become a customer, or influence a customer.

“Used wisely, information uncovered in an exit interview can return your investment by increasing employee retention and productivity,” Aon wrote. “The cost of rehires, retraining, decreased productivity, and possible customer dissatisfaction clearly outstrips the investment in an exit interview program.”

According to the article, companies may benefit from outsourcing the exit interview function by relying on the vendor’s expertise in this area. A HR vendor could also advise HR officials on how to best structure exit interviews done in house.

A copy of the Aon Consulting newsletter is at http://www.aon.com/about/publications/pdf/forum/frm_0309.pdf .