One of the important factors in obtaining actionable exit interview data is the timing of the data collection itself. We hear all of the time about the latest HR software that with a click of a button an employee can see the exit interview survey, can fill out the information, and send it right back to the company.

Timing alone is the biggest mistake companies are making when it comes to conducting exit interviews.

If your organization is collecting exit interview data during termination, it will be contaminated by:

  • Emotion that may still be active when someone leaves an organization
  • Fear of burning bridges or getting bad recommendations
  • Lack of opportunity to process and think about their employment and their reasons for leaving in more depth
  • Lack of time to experience their new employer (if they have one)
  • An urgency on the part of exiting employees to leave because they are possibly embarrassed or angry, resulting in clipped, less rich answers to questions

Conducting exit interviews while the employee is still employed is a mistake. Having exit interviews conducted by internal HR is a mistake.

Studies have shown that exit interviews conducted two to six weeks after termination tend to be richer, more balanced, and more helpful in identifying patterns in responses. That makes it more likely to identify appropriate action steps that are more likely to result in reduced turnover, improved productivity and higher employee engagement within the organization.

Using an experienced, confidential, third party to collect exit data also reduces exit interview anxiety which means more actionable and accurate answers.

Giving an employee that two week time frame to think about their reasons for leaving and providing for them an opportunity to process their employment experience with others means more useful information that a company can actually act upon. It reduces emotional baggage, it allows for a more thoughtful look at the past and it provides exactly what companies need to affect positive change and reduce turnover.