I can still remember the first time I was asked to do an Exit Interview. I was pretty green, so the thought of speaking to someone who was leaving the company was actually an exciting prospect.

Then I conducted the Exit Interview.

From that point on, only when ordered to do so would I participate in an Exit Interview (from either side of the desk, mind you). There are people I know who will passionately debate the wealth of information gained from an Exit Interview; there are companies that exist strictly on the premise of this information holding the key to controlling turnover. I expect these folks have had a much different experience than the average corporate HR Generalist, lest they realize the futility of this dog & pony show.

It’s not a cut & dry issue, you may very well hit a gusher if you drill enough holes, but it’s an expensive and often hopeless venture. Why waste time on this stuff?

  • The “losing” manager already knows why the employee left. The only ones we really care to know more about are the good ones. The good ones aren’t about to burn a bridge on the way out the door. I think a more productive exercise would be to interview the manager and their manager whenever an employee resigns. Let’s get it out there on the table, have some fun with it.
  • It’s stupid. Yep, stupid. Quitting a job is not an easy choice ~ playing Q&A with an ex-employee on their way out the door is an awkward, sometimes painful process.
  • It’s ceremonial. If Human Resources is conducting the Exit Interview (a stupid choice within a stupid process), what exactly are we saying to the ex-employee? “Good luck, and please don’t sue us?”  or, “Remember me? I’m the first person you met 8 years ago?”
  • Closing the barn door… The only thing sillier that an Exit Interview is a counter-offer; an employee who has resigned/quit has made a leap in their mind & heart. Elvis has left the building. It’s too late, don’t make it harder than it has to be, tip your waitress, good night.
  • It’s deceptive ~ The information you get is either diluted, “scrubbed,” or biased. Seriously, what are you going to do with the information? How relevant is the information when it comes from someone on the way out?

“Color me gone, chief.”

I really don’t think this is a Human Resources issue, it’s a “way things are” issue. You know the common theme “People don’t quit companies, they quit managers,”????? That must have been an HR person quoted after listening to 1,000 Exit Interviews where every employee gripes about their horrible manager. People absolutely leave companies – they may actually stay because of a manager in spite of the company; we people are wired to be loyal to other people we respect and/or like. I’m not saying it never happens, just that we’ve become way too comfortable with a mantra that makes little sense. The Exit Interview simply perpetuates the myth that managers cause employees to leave, and by God we’re going to find out who & why that is!

I’ve seen a lot of people leave companies, many of whom (me included) simply deduced that the company would shut down operations to accommodate the loss. Alas, no one is irreplaceable. If the data received from employees leaving is the catalyst for a change in the company, the issues are much deeper than the loss of one employee.