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This is why more companies have elected to use independent third
parties to conduct the interviews by phone, in-person, or through

Exit Interviewing/Surveying and Turnover Analysis

secure Web sites. The downside is that employees become more
dif¬cult to reach once they have left the company. Another alterna-
tive is to have all employees complete a written survey on their last
day, then notify them that they will be receiving a phone call to
obtain clari¬cation on some of their responses.
2. Offered on a Post-Exit Basis. Because departing individuals may still
have unresolved emotions and be preoccupied with other matters
on the day of their departure, many employers contact the em-
ployee during the evening at home a few weeks after exiting. This
allows the employee time to gain perspective and speak with the
bene¬t of time for re¬‚ection.
It is more expensive to have third-party consultants conduct phone
interviews than to have departed employees complete a post-exit
Web survey. This is why many companies have third parties con-
duct actual interviews only with those employees the company re-
gretted losing the most and invite all others to complete a
con¬dential password-protected Web survey.
3. Guaranteed Con¬dentiality and Anonymity. Departing employees need
to be assured that they can provide frank and candid feedback with-
out fear of retribution by their former manager or a coworker.
Many employees are more likely to accept such assurances when
they come from a third-party interviewer or surveyor than from a
company representative.
This is a more dif¬cult issue for smaller organizations that conduct
interviews with fewer employees and can therefore more easily
identify departed employees by their comments and demographic
information. CEOs at these smaller companies therefore cannot
confront managers with speci¬c information that is critical of them
without revealing the identity of the departed employee. Smaller
companies typically resolve this problem either by not using the
speci¬c information with the manager or by waiting until they have
exit data from ¬ve or more employees, a number considered suf¬-
cient to protect the anonymity of the former employee.
4. Conducted with All Employees Who Leave. To have the broadest possi-
ble understanding of all reasons for employee turnover among all
categories of employees, it is important to survey all departing em-
ployees in one form or another. All employees may not complete
and return surveys after their departure, or be reachable by tele-
phone, but they should at least have the opportunity to participate.

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It is also a good idea to interview or survey employees who leave
the company involuntarily because they may have valuable insights
to share. However, they may also be more emotional on the day of
their separation, so a post-exit survey will usually be more effective.
Another category of employee not to be overlooked are those trans-
ferring from one location to another within the company. Having
them complete exit surveys is another way to capture potentially
valuable information about their work experiences and feelings
even though they are staying with the organization.
5. Consistent Survey Questions. Once the survey has been designed, it is
important not to keep changing the questions, at least not the core
questions. This will help assure that the data received is reliable.
Many organizations also intentionally use the same questions in exit
interviews that they use in employee attitude surveys, thus allowing
comparisons to be made and patterns to be detected.
6. Findings Reported to Management. Because ˜˜push-factor™™ reasons for
leaving are within the control of managers and senior leaders, they
should have the opportunity to see the ¬ndings in both summary
form and more detailed reports so they may take corrective action.
Senior leaders will certainly need to see this data in order to hold
their direct reports accountable for making appropriate corrective
changes to prevent future regrettable departures of valued employ-
ees. Larger companies that do regular exit surveying typically issue
quarterly and annual reports of ¬ndings.
7. Exit Findings Combined with Other Organizational Data. Exit survey
data by itself can be quite revealing, but to assure a more rounded
view of organizational issues and trends they are best reviewed in
combination with data from surveys of current employees and other
organizational trend data. Such data may include the average tenure
of employees in various positions, the number of years with the
company when various employees are most at risk of leaving, quit
rate, average vacancy rate, and other data of this kind. This type of
comprehensive analysis can help identify predictors of turnover
among various groups of employees so that actions can be taken to
keep it from occurring.
8. Leaders and Managers Taking Action Based on Findings. As mentioned
in Chapter One, 95 percent of companies conduct exit interviews
or surveys, but only 30 percent report that they ever take corrective
action based on what they learn. There we have one more reason

Exit Interviewing/Surveying and Turnover Analysis

why most companies are not employers of choice. Employers of
choice view every avoidable turnover of a valued employee as a
failure to be analyzed and understood in terms of its true causes, in
order to prevent such future turnovers.
This means that every piece of data at the disposal of company
leaders must be taken seriously. However, if senior leaders and man-
agers do not believe that the information gathered is based on the
skilled questioning of candid departing employees, they certainly
cannot be expected to trust the ¬ndings or take action based on it.

One Last Chance to Reclaim a Valued Employee
There are times during an exit interview when it may become obvious that
an employee who has decided to leave is really heartbroken at the prospect
of leaving, but feels there is no alternative. For example, an employee may
love the job, the work environment, and the colleagues, but has decided
to leave because the boss would not grant ¬‚exible hours. In these situations,
an alert and proactive exit interviewer may be able to intervene to help
change the boss™s mind or report the situation to higher ups who may be
able to assign the individual to a different manager.
In her book, HR from the Heart, Libby Sartain, senior vice president
of human resources at Yahoo! Inc., recommends always asking departing
employees, ˜˜Is there anything we could have done to keep you here?™™1
You may discover that there may still be a sliver of a chance to keep valued
talent and save the company money in avoided turnover costs.
Sartain also recommends trying to connect with departing employees
on a deeper, more human level by asking such questions as:

• If you had the last three months to live over again, what do you
think you would do differently?
• What have you learned that you can take with you to your next job?
• What are you proud of from your time here?
• What goals did you meet?
• What accomplishments will you be able to take with you?2

Just One More Question
One question that should be on every company™s survey is ˜˜Would you
consider returning to the company, and if so, under what conditions?™™ Of

E© I®©·©®§/Sµ©®§ ®¤ Tµ® A®¬© 223

course, asking this question requires that the company be willing to rehire
former employees; as amazing as it may seem, there are still lots of compa-
nies who will not. Employers of choice, however, realize that former em-
ployees are to be viewed as alumni”to be kept in touch with and
considered for rehire when the time is right.
Departing employees who answer this question af¬rmatively should be
listed in a special recruiting database and contacted periodically by e-mail.
There are few things more gratifying than welcoming back to the company
a former employee who thought the grass might be greener, found out it
wasn™t, and has come back to tell and retell that story to their colleagues.

Note to Readers
To view our own post-exit survey, visit www.keepingthepeople.com and
click on ˜˜surveys,™™ then on ˜˜decision to leave.™™ Visitors to the Web
site are encouraged to complete this survey as part of our ongoing
research into the root causes of avoidable employee turnover.

1. Libby Sartain, with Martha I. Finney, HR from the Heart: Inspiring Stories
and Strategies for Building the People Side of Great Business (New York:
AMACOM, 2003).
2. Ibid.

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Employer of Choice Strategies and Practices
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Talent Management and Business Strategy
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Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.
Michaels, Ed, Helen Hand¬eld-Jones, and Beth Axelrod. The War for Tal-
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Nalbantian, Haig R., Richard A. Guzzo, Dave Kieffer, and Jay Doherty.
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People Management Best Practices
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Employee Turnover
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Employee Commitment and Engagement
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Human Capital ROI
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