Which is Better: An Exit Survey or Exit Interview?
Posted on August 24, 2011 by Gail Danneman
A lot of organizations do not use exit surveys or exit interviews. When an employee leaves, that’s it. In my opinion, any organization that fails to gather information as an employee leaves is missing potentially the most important information that can be collected. Employees leave organizations for numerous reasons ranging from personal reasons to a better offer. Organizations invest a lot of time and money in the development of each employee; therefore, it is vital to get answers to important questions.
Just this week I said goodbye to one of my summer internships and had the opportunity to sit down with my two bosses and discuss the positives and negatives about the internship. I was not expecting such interest in my viewpoint and appreciated the opportunity. I was completely honest in giving feedback because I believe honesty is the best policy. How can an organization make changes if employees are not being honest about potential problems? I made suggestions as to how the internship could be improved and also acknowledged my personal growth with the job.
While interviews offer an organization the chance to gain insight into an employee out the door, not all employees will feel comfortable disclosing such information in person. Although an exit interview is designed for someone who is leaving the organization and therefore cannot be punished for what is said, there can still be some that will not feel comfortable. Whoever conducts the interview may not report all that was discussed.
I have never participated in an exit survey, but believe that organizations should invest in conducting exit surveys. Exit interviews can be extremely time consuming because it is necessary for someone from the organization to conduct the interview with the employee who is leaving. Surveys, however, can collect information quickly and more objectively.
Exit surveys can be structured by the organization to gather information regarding several different aspects of the job such as job satisfaction, work environment, opportunities for advancement, pay, training, manager relationship, and motivation.
Unfortunately, not every employee who leaves the organization will participate in the exit survey. Most often, it is the employees who had an extremely positive or very negative experience at the organization who will take the time to complete the survey. This leaves a lack of participation in the average employee. Providing an extra incentive as the employee prepares to leave the organization may increase the amount of participation in the exit survey.
Again, there is the issue of honesty during exit interviews and exit surveys. Surveys are no exception to this problem. Employees leaving an organization have very little incentive to answer exit surveys honestly. An employee leaving an organization will not benefit from any changes made after survey results have been compiled. Although the employee is leaving the organization, there can be a deep fear that the employee’s retirement funds will be in danger if he or she reveals too much in a survey. Finally, the employee may fear coworker’s job security should they report certain pieces of information.
Despite the possibilities of employees not being completely honest, there is still value in conducting exit surveys. If an organization is truly invested in better employee’s work lives, exit surveys are a key ingredient.
Have you completed an exit survey or interview? Were you completely honest for the organization’s benefit?