The exit interview is a long-time staple of HR departments. But an increasing number of companies large and small are ending the practice of asking departing workers to sit down for a final interview.
The concept seems sound. You can take the opportunity to hear unvarnished opinions about what your company or team does well and what it needs to improve on, and then take that back to management and implement changes that’ll help attract and retain great talent.
In practice, however, the process is often uncomfortable and many HR pros report that the folks who are interested in talking are often the ones who complained the most while on the payroll. The litany of gripes and rehashed personality clashes rarely adds much to the organization’s insight into building a better workplace.
If you can’t say anything nice…
Most of the rest, if they even will agree to an exit interview – and you can’t make them do that, of course – are going to be very careful to say only positive or neutral things about their experience at your organization. That helps to prevent bridge burning for them, in case they ever want to come back or they run into a colleague at a job interview later in their career. But for your team, the result is likely the same as with the complainer in the first example: A one-sided, probably inaccurate picture of what you are doing right and how you can improve in areas that need work.
Finally, much of the work your HR team does to schedule an interview as workers are packing up their personal stuff is likely to be wasted. Advice on employee-focused employment websites and other social media leans heavily towards “How to Avoid the Exit Interview.” Suggested tactics range from saying you can’t spare the time because you don’t want to leave your soon-to-be-ex colleagues hanging to asking to schedule after the leave date and then just ghosting the phone call altogether.
It’s still worthwhile to do a formal review to close out individual projects and to debrief contractors as they wrap up, but it’s probably time to say goodbye to the “tell us what you really think” sessions with employees who have decided to move on.