The HOW and WHY of Exit Interviews

“Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.”                                                                                                                                            –Travis Bradberry

We get it. Even thinking about losing valued employees raises beads of sweat across the back of your neck. But no matter how much you wave the wishful-thinking wand, you simply cannot escape the fact that some employees will choose to terminate their employment status with the company this year. Next year too.

Glassdoor found that 35% of those doing the hiring do so with the expectation that more employees will be quitting in the coming year. While it’s discouraging to know that those doing the hiring are already picturing over one-third of their hires walking out the door, this is not a case of rampant pessimism, but a realistic view of these candidate-driven, shortage-laden times. Some of your most-valued employees will move on.

HR departments that understand today’s medical workforce will grasp the importance of exit interviews. They understand how insights gained during exit interviews can be a tool in your employee retention toolbox. And trust me, those folks know what they’re talking about. Though often overlooked or poorly managed, these sit-down discussions can have a huge, positive impact on the company going forward.

The WHY of exit interviews

As a step to reduce turnover, increase retention, and protect profits, exit interviews simply make sense.

“Asking employees for feedback to understand the reasons behind their behavior, motivations, and intents is the first step to predicting and preventing turnover,” states William Mahan. “Organizations must prioritize asking former employees for feedback to build a foundation for predicting turnover.”

Yet, many companies bypass this critical tool. Others toy with the concept but fail to implement it, by conducting interviews, but not collecting the data. Some do record the data, but don’t take the next step to analyze it. A third group completes the data analysis, but they fail to share the insights with their management team. Only a few collect, analyze, and share the data, and take the final step to follow up with action.

Maybe the real question to be answered here is, “Why not?”

The HOW of Exit Interviews

The “how” actually begins with a “who” question. Who should conduct the interview? Most proponents of exit interviews advise that the employee’s immediate supervisor or a colleague he/she worked with closely not be the one to handle the conversation. A person further removed from the employee’s daily work routine will elicit the most candid answers. The “where” should provide for a wholly non-threatening and distraction-free setting.

The interviewer should be present, tuned in, and engaged. His/her plan should be to listen more than talk. Begin the session by expressing appreciation for the departing employee’s work. While it’s fine to state that the company will miss the employee, this is not the time to heap on guilt. Murmurings such as, “I have no idea how we’ll function without you . . .” or “We never dreamed you could leave us . . .” will not create the open environment that will invite honest sharing.

Shelley CohenRN, BSN, CEN suggests the following sample questions—

  • Was there one key reason for your decision to leave?
  • Is there anything that could have been done or changed that would have prompted you to stay?
  • Do you feel you received adequate training for your job?
  • If you could change one thing about this organization, what would it be?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
  • What about your job satisfied you the most?
  • What about your job was the least satisfying for you?
  • What does your new job offer you that we were unable to provide?

This process should prompt the company, the HR department, and the management team to ask themselves some questions as well.

  • Were we honest about our expectations for this person?
  • Did we hide or sugar-coating aspects of the job?
  • Did we provide adequate training and support?

Consider using third-party and follow-up services. Mahan insists on an outside interview. “Research says that exit survey or interview data collected by the organization itself at the time of employee departure is subject to substantial response bias. Also, these reasons for leaving change significantly after departure and when asked by a third party.”

He suggests conducting interviews—

  1. Through an independent third-party to remove biases
  2. After the employee has left to get to the real reasons for leaving
  3. Using a mixed-methods approach to ask “Why” in an open-ended, qualitative manner
  4. With research instruments designed to double-probe in questioning to solicit multiple responses and selection of the most important reason.
  5. In a manner that categorize themes from qualitative data and analyzes responses quantitatively to reduce bias and maximize causal understanding.

Follow-up surveys or questionnaires can complement whatever type of in-person interview is utilized by uncovering additional information on the employees’ motives for departure. This second step also demonstrates the company’s commitment to creating a positive work environment and improving retention.

A partnership with Medical Temporaries, Inc., can be an additional defense in the battle for retention. Our experience and resources enable us to place right-fit candidates in a timely manner across all departments in medical and dental facilities. Give our team a ring to see how Medical Temporaries can assist with all your hiring needs.


Published by Medical Temporararies, Inc.

Medical Temporaries, Inc. is more than a temp agency, we're a staffing company with all types of opportunities available. Whether you're looking for full-time, part-time, short-term or long-term employment, we are here to build the bridge between you and you're Ideal job.

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