We hear many objections regarding conducting exit interviews for employees who have been involuntary terminated from their positions. However, after conducting exit interviews for more than 15 years, the team here at CRS has learned there’s more value than there is harm in conducting these exits. Here are our thoughts about each of the most popular objections:
“We already know why they left so there is no point in exit interviewing them.”
It’s true that in the case of involuntary terms, HR knows why the person’s employment was terminated, but exit interviews are about a lot more than reason for leaving. Good exit interviews secure feedback on a variety of topics, and these exit interviews often identify discrepancies between the employee’s experience and the supervisor’s feedback. Exit interviews can also reveal trends; if an involuntarily termed employee has a similar experience to a voluntarily termed employee, leadership is in a better position to address it. If multiple people were let go for the same reason, exit interviews help reveal insight into why; this might impact future hiring decisions or reinforce the need for proper orientation and training. If employee after employee states that they truly don’t know why their employment was terminated, or if they never received any documentation or notice about their termination, employers can use this information to provide their managers with better tools.
“These employees will just bash the company.”
We’ve run side-by-side comparisons and it turns out that on average, involuntarily termed employees rate categories higher than their voluntarily exited counterparts. In part, this is because they didn’t choose to leave the company; in most cases, they wish they were still employed there. Recent interview comments from involuntarily termed managers include “They were my true family,” and “I liked everything about it. The employees were fantastic. The pay was great. I liked the company structure and the company culture. The overall working environment was probably the best part.” To combat any perceptions of negative bias, CRS’ exit interview clients have the option of receiving summary reports only on voluntary terms if they’d like.
“They won’t do an exit interview anyway.”
On average, we conduct almost the same percentage of involuntary exit interviews as we do voluntary exit interviews. These employees appreciate the opportunity to share their perspective on their experience, particularly when they don’t fully understand the reasons for their termination. And if an employee objects on the grounds that they plan to bring suit against the company, learning that during an exit interview invitation can provide a head’s up to the employer.
“The cost is too high.”
Whether a company conducts exit interviews internally or outsources to a third party such as CRS, it will indeed cost more time and money to reach out to this additional population. However, our clients have told us it’s worth it because we’ve also made them aware of previously unknown insights into specific terminations. We also repeatedly have the experience of someone starting out the exit interview very angry about their situation and feeling much better after getting to talk it through with a non-biased third party. We just completed an exit interview with someone whose position was eliminated. Throughout the interview he expressed confusion and disappointment about his experience because he had really enjoyed his work experience prior to his termination. He started the interview with “I’m shocked that I was just let go” and ended with “I’m really glad to know someone at the company is going to read this.” He shared specific concerns about his supervisor relationship; if the company views those carefully and addresses the issues identified, it may improve employee relations and prevent future costly turnover.
Exit interviews with involuntarily termed employees provide those employees with a positive last impression of the company as they have the opportunity to be heard. They provide the company with valuable insights about the supervisor relationship, employment experience, and termination process. They also provide the company with advanced notice of potential litigation. That’s why a good exit interview program includes feedback from both voluntarily and involuntarily termed employees.
Heather Mascaro has conducted thousands of exit interviews since joining the CRS team in 2012. Christin Myers helped build the exit interview program at CRS from 2005-2011 and returned as COO in 2015.