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Reducing turnover by conducting exit interviews

I have been struggling recently to keep my employees. I have been losing them regularly and have to keep rehiring. But the problem goes on. What should I do?

As difficult as it is to find help these days, the last thing you need to do is lose a good employee. The costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training to develop a good employee can be exorbitant. This doesn’t even take into consideration the time and energy that is also spent on this process.

Today, one of the top priorities for an owner/manager is to spend a lot of time focusing on the retention of good employees. Despite the recently elevated unemployment rate, it is an "employee market" out there. Good employees have a great advantage over the general workforce in finding opportunities to upgrade their career. And believe me, if they find a place where the owner/manager recognizes their value, they will be given a job offer and it’s usually one that they can’t refuse.

In order to avoid losing good employees, it is necessary to become very proactive in the area of retention. One thing you should do is have a process in place to find out the reasons employees leave you on their own accord. The best source for this information is from departing employees themselves. They can provide valuable information that can help your company reduce turnover and improve operations. You capture such information though an exit interview. The objective of this kind of interview is to obtain accurate and specific information concerning what caused or motivated the employee to leave, and thereby point out needed changes in the company’s policies and management style.

Like everything else an exit interview process requires a plan. Here are a few considerations in developing the exit interview.

  • Have a written list of pre-planned questions to ask.

  • Make sure the employee understands the purpose of the meeting. The goal should be so that you can truly learn what things you and your company can do in the future to prevent losing any more good employees. This is not the place to convince them not to leave. You have lost them already. You just need to know why.

  • Make the situation non-threatening and guarantee confidentiality so the employee feels comfortable opening up.

Another suggestion:

  • Have a third party conduct the actual exit interview. The advantage here is that it creates an atmosphere where the employee is generally more comfortable saying what’s really on their mind. The bottom line is that you need to hear the truth.

Remember, an exit interview will point out the reasons individuals leave your employment, but this knowledge will not reduce your rate of turnover or decrease the cost of employee turnover unless you take this information and do something with it. Do not let your ego get in the way when you hear the reasons. You may find it incredible that someone would leave for these reasons, but you need to accept the reality. It is not always about money. More often, it is the lack of recognition, the lack of training and the lack of trust from owners and managers that made it happen.

Addressing the problems you uncover through exit interviews brings you full circle in the hiring process. To reduce turnover, you need to hire intelligently, reward good employees, and learn from your losses. Create an open and trusting workplace. Communicate. Get feedback. Create a culture that makes your business an employer of choice.


Debra Thompson is President of TG & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in Human Resources for the Graphics Industry. Contact Debra toll free at 877-842-7762 or Visit to sign up for The Communicator, a free monthly email newsletter.

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