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HR Answers: Leverage Insights From Exit Interviews

November 2017: Vol 40 No 11
Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR
Credit union leaders can gain powering information about company culture, benefit and policies. 

HR person conducting an exit interview, notepad in handInsights gleaned from exit interviews can give senior leadership teams important guidance on where to make changes in processes, procedures or policies that may be negatively impacting employee satisfaction. 

“As a VP of HR, I would compile patterns and say, ‘This is how many people left and here is what we’re hearing about benefits, or compensation or whatever,’” says Laurie J. Maddalena, CPCC, PHR, CEO/chief leadership consultant with Envision Excellence LLC, in Rockville, Md. The human resources department is in a good position to serve as the conduit for this information, spotting the trends that appear to be resulting in turnover. 

Exit interviews may even represent an opportunity to “make things right” with an employee about to depart—whether that means they decide to stay with your credit union after all or that they may be more likely to return in the future if the grass really isn’t as green somewhere else as they had hoped. In fact, there has been a growing trend in recent years that is referred to as “boomerang” employees—those who choose to return to a former employer. Ensuring that the exit process is positive and taking steps to maintain positive relationships with former employees can boost the odds that your credit union is considered as a great place to work again in the future. 

“There’s always a possibility to right something,” says Maddalena. “As a human resource professional, it’s important to keep an open mind; if there’s something that can be done, it’s certainly worth exploring.” 

The need for exit interviews may be diminished, though, if more proactive steps are taken to get information from employees before they make a decision to leave.

‘Stay Interviews’ a Proactive Option

Maddalena recommends taking the opportunity, particularly with top employees, to have these conversations on an ongoing basis—“to determine how things are going, what would keep them with the credit union, what might entice them away, or how you could support them better as a leader or manager.” Having these discussions proactively, she says, can help you identify and address any issues before an employee gets to the point of resignation.

Other opportunities for input, suggests Maddalena, could include after the onboarding or initial training period for an employee, during annual reviews, etc. “Things like this can help bring to the surface any issues or patterns before they get to the exit interview,” she says.

Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist with Insperity, New York, agrees. “Exit interviews can provide helpful insights, but companies should also seek to obtain this type of information from current workers via employee surveys or by encouraging people to provide immediate feedback,” he says. “It’s important to obtain input about workplace matters from current employees, not just those exiting the organization.” 

Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, is a freelance writer and human resource management and marketing communication consultant in Chippewa Falls, Wis. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement (Adams Media, 2014) and Human Resource Essentials (SHRM, 2010).

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