Well you should. It’s a crucial part of the picture that helps you understand what your company is – its ethos, reputation, management style, and culture for instance. You know what you say it is, but do you know what is actually being experienced every day?
People who work for you now and people who have worked for you in the past are your ambassadors for your business reputation, not only for future hires but also for future business. So when people leave they are a really valuable source of information about what worked for them when with your company as well as what didn’t. You can be sure they will be telling others what they think, so find out yourself too.
Often people say that finding out what people think at this stage is too late. It’s shutting the door after the horse has bolted. Well there is some truth to that. If an ambitious individual is leaving because you have overlooked their potential for promotion for instance, then it may be too late to change that person’s decision – but understanding that this is why they are leaving should enable you to head off issues that others may similarly be facing.
So what do you need to know? Do you need to know where they are headed and what’s great about where they are going, or why they decided to look around for a new job (for instance) in the first place?
Knowing what has made them accept a new job elsewhere has its uses. The new job pays more, the role appears a promotion, it’s closer to home, better benefits etc. But realistically, any one of these factors will appear in hundreds of jobs being recruited for at any one time. The perception that the grass is greener elsewhere can be very tempting, particularly if people hanker for something more than they have or know already.
So the key is not to find out what tempted them to accept an offer elsewhere, but to find out what started them looking in the first place. If you can find out what triggers that action you are more likely to be able to implement changes that stops that happening unnecessarily.
Importantly, as well as understanding the negatives about the job, workplace etc, it is also important to understand what was good about your organisation, what they valued. We often overlook the positives when seeking information like this, but actually knowing what works and then doing more of that can be as important as rectifying any negative issues. Equally you don’t want to inadvertently stop the good things when attempting to rectify the problems!
So how do you find out what you need to know?
Firstly think about creating the environment for people to be honest. This might mean anonymous feedback, perhaps with the aid of a third party or a questionnaire, but an interview/discussion will enable you to collect more in-depth feedback and clarify any potential misunderstanding.
Then consider when you collect this information. Before they have left, or shortly afterwards. Shortly afterwards may mean they are more likely to be honest, but before they leave will probably mean you will receive a response to your request.
Think carefully about the questions you ask – keep them straightforward, short, unambiguous and consistent so that you can analyse feedback from several people to identify common themes. Use a mix of tick box questions (for easy analysis) with open comment – for in-depth understanding.
Be clear and open with what you intend to do with what you find out – how you will share it and what it will inform.
And finally, not forgetting to ensure that participants know that you value their honest feedback and that what they say as part of an exit process will in no way prejudice their future, either through seeking future references or if indeed they want to work for the company again.
But remember, doing all of this is only an information gathering exercise. Doing something with the feedback once gathered is where you will make a difference to your staff’s experience not only whilst they are working with you, but also in how prepared they are to be your ambassadors when or if they eventually move on.