Is It Time to Rethink Your Company’s Exit Interview Process?
Employee Exit Interview

There are good reasons forward-leaning businesses care so much about employee engagement and retention. For one thing, when experienced employees leave, companies experience disruption in the quality service they provide. For another, when attrition is high, the morale of workers who remain tends to drop. Finally, employee attrition hurts the bottom line—according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), for example, the average cost to businesses of hiring one new employee is more than $4,000.

How Deep Is Your Attrition Problem?

Simply stated, your business will suffer from the loss of even one talented employee—but to fix the problem, it’s important to view employee attrition in the aggregate, to know how serious your attrition problem is—and to get a bead on why workers are leaving. 

The first step to understanding your attrition problem is to assess how your business stacks up against others in the same industry. For example, the average attrition rate across all industries is 17.8%–but it’s significantly higher in hospitality (almost 27%), and lower in utilities (8.8%) and insurance (12.2%). 

Of course, businesses with attrition rates substantially higher than the average are especially at risk. However, every business, including those whose attrition rates buck national trends, has a vested interest in understanding why employees leave, and what they can do to fix the problem.

Why Are Your Employees Leaving?

An employee who tells you that they are leaving because another company offers better career advancement opportunities likely isn’t telling you the whole story. In fact, most people leave their jobs for more than one reason. For example, the employee who leaves to advance his or her career might also believe your business isn’t responsive or doesn’t especially care about his or her future.

The top reasons for resigning cited by employees in exit interviews range from anemic corporate culture to poor relations with the boss (or with coworkers), insufficient challenge on the job, boredom, little or no job flexibility and the lack of autonomy and authority. But the decision to move on isn’t typically attributable to any one of these in isolation—more often, it’s the result of multiple factors. That makes getting to the bottom of your employee attrition problem more challenging and calls for a more nuanced approach to exit interviews—one driven by accurate data collection and analysis.

What Is The Purpose Of Exit Interviews?

In the absence of such data-driven analysis, exit interviews are little more than perfunctory, providing limited information businesses can use to improve engagement and retention. Properly designed and executed, exit interviews should tell you, specifically, why workers are leaving, provide actionable data for change, uncover engagement issues and establish a foundation for a strategic plan to increase both employee engagement and retention.

Why Is Execution Is Critical?

Every business is different, with different HR issues and challenges. That said, each must determine how most effectively to time and execute exit interviews—in other words, each must assess how, when and by whom interviews should take place.

For example, some businesses are more successful in performing in-person interviews, while others get more traction (and typically higher completion rates) by providing an online interview option. Similarly, it might be effective for some companies to interview employees close to the time of their leaving (this because the experiences which led to resignation are still fresh), while others find it useful to wait several weeks, this giving former employees time to reflect on their reasons for leaving. The types and quality of data you collect should help you determine which execution strategy is best for your business.

What Data Should Your Business Collect?

To begin, the exit interview process should be grounded in a continual improvement model. Each iterative analysis, in other words, should provide insights that inform the questions which provide the most useful data.

Best practice suggests that, initially, you should ask exiting employees at minimum the following 10 questions:

  1. What is the main reason you decided to leave? (Are there other reasons you’re moving on?)
  2. What changes should we be making to prevent more employees from leaving?
  3. How effective was your training?
  4. How important were benefits in your decision to leave?
  5. Did we provide enough opportunities for promotion and career advancement?
  6. Was your salary a principal reason for your decision to leave?
  7. Would you describe your relationship with your manager as excellent, good, fair or poor?
  8. Would you describe your relationship with your coworkers as excellent, good, fair or poor?
  9. What did you like most about your job?
  10. What did you like least about your job?


Too often, companies invest substantial time and human resources in exit interviews only to leave the results of those interviews gathering dust on a shelf in the human resources office. The data you collect, in other words, are only as good as the uses to which they’re put. 

It’s critically important in addressing your engagement and retention issues that you conduct a robust analysis of exit interview results, collect the right data, share results with key stakeholders (including C-suite executives), work towards the continual improvement of the exit interview process—and commit to fixing the problems within your organization which induce your workers to leave. That’s where we can help.

To learn more about the ways we can help your business design a data-driven approach to exit interviews, gain valuable insights and improve the engagement and retention of your employees, contact us today.