An employer's biggest challenge is the combination of recruiting talent in an extremely tight talent marketplace, while also getting top talent to stick around and grow with your organization. I call this the leaky bucket. As we fill more job openings, people outgrow their roles and leave organizations. We can replace those people with new hires who are eager to work for the company, but that’s only a short-term fix. There are many recruiting strategies that can improve your company’s retention rates. Although you may not be thinking about them as a recruiting and retention strategy, exit interviews are one of the most important sources of data for your long term recruiting and retention efforts.

The opportunity for feedback is critical for the exiting employee. This is their last chance to take away a positive impression of the organization. @jmillermerrell #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart

On a very basic level, an exit interview is a wrap-up meeting between management representatives and someone who is leaving an organization, either voluntarily or through termination.

Exit interviews help you understand:

  • Reasons for an individual employee departure
  • Trends in employee dissatisfaction
  • Gaps in benefits  
  • Disconnects with leadership
  • Competitive compensation issues
  • Other culture and workplace problems

The opportunity for feedback is critical for the exiting employee. This is their last chance to take away a positive impression of the organization. The interaction will stick with them throughout their career and will directly correlate to future sentiments – including what they choose to share with peers, friends, family and other colleagues about your company.

Alumni employee impact on your employer brand 

When you’re benchmarking the current state of your employer brand, one of the most important factors to consider is how you handle employee reviews on sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, Fairy God Boss and others. Review sites are becoming a more important and trusted part of the job offer and interview process. The entire candidate engagement process begins the moment the prospective candidate begins to consider your company as an option for employment and starts the research process to find out how you are perceived in the market. This is why the manner in which you handle departing employees is critical.

Review sites are becoming a more important and trusted part of the job offer and interview process. @jmillermerrell #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart

In a recent whitepaper, The Connection Between HR Analytics & Employer Brand, RiseSmart reported that nearly 70 percent of unemployed job seekers said they would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, and that 84 percent of employees would consider leaving their current job to work for an employer with an excellent reputation – even if the salary increase was below 10 percent.

Who conducts the exit interviews is one of the most important considerations when it comes to establishing trust and preserving your employer brand. Many employees simply won’t be honest about their reasons for leaving, or may be hesitant to offer criticism (no matter how constructive) to their direct supervisors. According to a 2016 HBR survey of 188 executives, approximately 70 percent of respondents said their HR departments handle exit interviews, while 19% said that an outgoing employee’s direct supervisor conducts them. It is logical for HR professionals to handle exit interviews as the outgoing employee may feel intimidated in speaking with the direct supervisor.

Having the department manager do the exit interview may prevent outgoing employees from speaking out, and not providing true insights about their grievances – thereby negating the objectives of conducting an exit interview in the first place. Getting feedback from exit interviews can be ten times more difficult in the instance of a layoff. A laid off employee is often an angry employee. What incentive do they have to give you advice on how your company can do better? Which leads me to…

Getting the most from exit interviews

In order to improve your programs, processes and culture based on exit interview feedback, it’s imperative to be able to turn the feedback into actionable data. Developing consistent questions, and even a scoring system, can help you turn information gained during an exit interview into data.

Many companies will add an outgoing employee survey to their exit interview process in order to score the data received. This can be extremely helpful in cases where you wouldn’t normally be able to get this type of information, such as during a layoff.

It’s common practice to offer the services of an outplacement company as part of a severance package in the case of layoffs. An effective outplacement program will give your management team and HR department the tools and training to plan and successfully execute notifications, and prepare outgoing employees for ongoing success. Employees who are given outplacement services as part of their severance package can land new roles 60 percent faster than the national average, and harbor less negative feelings about their former employer.

There are some outplacement firms and technologies, such as RiseSmart, who not only offer outgoing employee support, but can also help your team with exit feedback. Through innovative programs like RiseSmart’s Insight, HR departments can get the analytics they need to preserve their brand reputation, prove ROI on their outplacement investment, and calculate their Alumni Sentiment Rating.

What is an Alumni Sentiment Rating?

An Alumni Sentiment Rating is much like a Net Promoter Score (NPS) in that it identifies which transitioning employees are likely to be detractors, passives or promoters of your brand. Asking just a few questions of the employees experiencing involuntary layoffs with your organization will give you the raw feedback not otherwise available, and will provide a good sense of the impact of the RIF on your brand.

The key to getting useful, authentic feedback is to keep the responses completely anonymous and to collect the data through a third party. Employees aren’t likely to express their true sentiment if they think they could experience recrimination for their responses. Third party alumni sentiment surveys provide insight into:

  • The likelihood a separating employee will recommend you as an employer to friends, family and peers
  • How separating employees feel the RIF was handled
  • The individual impacted employee experience
  • The types of things employees are saying through individual comments
  • Where to make improvements in the future

Working with your outplacement vendor as a partner can also help you identify data points so that your team can examine the insights and trends from interviews and the survey data collected.

Finally, data is useless until you act on it. Be prepared to record any consistently reported issues or negative data points, and present them to your company leadership so that effective steps can be taken to improve for organizational betterment.

04 December 2018

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