Learning from leavers

Charly Landman

91% of Fortune 500 companies carry out exit interviews. However, many of them do it on automatic pilot. They are not really interested in what the soon to be ex-employees have to say. After all, who cares? They are leaving! This is very short-sighted and damaging for the company. How can a company keep the best people when it doesn’t know why the best people are leaving?

Learning from leavers

It’s a funny thing. You will probably learn more about what people really think of the company in an exit interview. It’s a rare moment when employees don’t have to worry about the consequences of speaking their mind. The important thing is not to waste this opportunity.

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To be well prepared and ask the right questions. What was the employee’s overall experience of working at the company? What did they think of the company culture? Were there enough opportunities to grow within the company? What would they change within the company? Not forgetting the most obvious question, why exactly are they leaving?

Hundreds of CVs

There are so many practical benefits. It is no exaggeration to say that a good exit interview can be the key to solving many serious issues in the workplace. It’s very cost effective too. Weigh up how much time the exit interview takes compared to the time and money to find a replacement. At least two months looking at hundreds of CVs and many, many hours interviewing the possible candidates. Add to that the cost of other people leaving because a major issue hasn’t been addressed.

A recent Careerwise survey found that 65% of millennials (born between 1985 and 2000) consider personal growth by far the most important form of development. This is what they want in their career. In an exit interview you can make sure that this is not an issue at your organization. If it is, you can turn what you learn into actionable next steps. This leads directly to another major issue: inaction. Failing to make the necessary changes. A 2018 survey by Berenschot found that nearly 60 percent of companies say they pay attention to “Employee Experience”. However, this doesn’t really do the trick. Employees need to feel that their employer pays attention to their well-being on a daily basis.

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When people are leaving find out about where they are going

There’s a lot to be learned from the competition. What did they do to persuade your valued colleague to leave? If the issue is a 10% salary increase, it’s something you can consider regarding other valuable members of the team. Will they soon be following their former colleague out the door? If it’s about promotion prospects, again, this is something to think about. If talented people can’t rise at your company, they will seek new opportunities elsewhere.

Have a “negative” conversation

The idea of a good exit interview is to learn as much as possible. This includes everything you really don’t want to hear. If there is an issue with a toxic working atmosphere you really need to know this. If it’s a bullying manager, this is a problem that affects the people who aren’t leaving (yet).

Issues you didn’t know were issues

On the surface it might seem positive that everyone is so busy and putting in extra hours for the company. However, there is a point where people are overworked. This can lead to dissatisfaction, absenteeism and burnouts. In the US alone, job burnouts costs $190 billion in healthcare spending every year. If people are leaving because of the workload you need to act. And fast.

The not leaving strategy

There is of course a whole other way of looking at exit interviews. Doing everything possible so that your people don’t feel the need to leave. When people are treated with empathy and valued as a person, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. This is strongly connected to business outcomes like productivity, innovation and profitability.

Effectory can help. We combine digital tools and a human-centric approach to engage employees. Providing customized tools for every kind of organization and situation. Advanced surveys using psychologists, data scientists, algorithms and artificial intelligence. These methods are proven to lead to business growth.

Would you like to have less exit interviews? Contact Effectory and see how we can help you.


Use the insights of departing employees to uncover hidden truths about your organization and minimize further unnecessary departures.

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