Communication Best Practices for Exit Interviews
Imagine a supervisor is contacted by one of the best employees they’ve ever had who recently left the organization. The former employee informs them they were contacted by someone for an exit interview, and they want to verify the legitimacy of the survey before participating. The supervisor responds “I’ve never heard of them”, and as a result, their employee passes on the opportunity to complete their survey and provide invaluable feedback. The impact of an effective communication strategy can prevent this situation from occurring, and to make it effective you should know who should send the communication and to whom, how to communicate the message, and what the benefits are of doing this.
Effective communication regarding exits interviews requires a balanced strategy. Understandably, the last thing an employer would want to do is send an email to the entire employee population beginning with the words “When you decide to leave the organization.”. However, not informing anyone in the organization that exit interviews are being conducted can only limit the program’s effectiveness.
While the entire employee population may not require the message, it’s important that managers are aware of the program. Just like in the opening example, manager awareness of the interviews can affect their employees’ likelihood of providing their feedback. If managers are to deliver a communication plan is to be delivered to all managers however, it’s important to identify who this message comes from.
According to Prosci Change Management Best Practices (2014), business communication is most effective when coming from the CEO/President or a member of a leadership team. These are individuals that managers recognize and respect, which makes establishing expectations and accountability more effective. Designating an individual as an executive sponsor to the program is another benefit as it give a face to the program.
Ideally, awareness and expectations are made with mangers when the program is first put in place, since this allows managers to feel in-the-loop and to buy into the system. In order to create buy-in and make the system effective, it’s vital let managers know the interviews will be occurring, what’s expected of them to make the program successful, and the benefits they’ll receive for their efforts. If the interviews have already started, a later communication can be sent with minor tweaks.
In order to avoid situations like the opening example, let your managers know that if an employee gives notice to let them know they’ll be contacted and to update their employee’s contact information. If there’s already an exit process or checklist, it can be even easier to implement by adding these pieces to your existing systems. Implementing these simple steps into an everyday process not only benefits the organization, but also the managers themselves which are important to share.
Creating awareness and establishing expectations with managers comes with a number of benefits at the organization level and manager level. By avoiding examples like the opening scenario, the survey will see less refusals to participate. Positively impacting participation provides a better snapshot of data trends and reasons for leaving, which also creates buy-in to the data from stakeholders. If the data is planned to be cascaded to locations, departments or managers than even a small number of individuals completing the survey who wouldn’t have otherwise can make a large difference in making managers aware of what’s going on in their area.
Creating awareness of the project to managers also shows them you have a vested interest in improving the organization and value the feedback the organization receives. It creates a culture of buy-in and trust, and encourages managers to encourage their employees in other feedback opportunities in the future.
The idea of building a communication strategy for exit interviews is an unknown concept to some, but following an effective strategy; having the right stakeholders send the right message to the right audience, buy-in and accountability from your managers is created, while providing the additional benefit of increasing the survey’s response rate. Forming an effective strategy is a key component to ultimately creating meaningful organizational improvement through your feedback.