Exit interviews: strategic move or too little, too late? Turns out, the answer is “it depends.” The biggest argument in favour of exit interviews is that the information provided will be used to improve the work environment. I’ve yet to see a direct correlation between exit data and change initiatives. My cynicism is based on three observations.
- It’s common to apply broad exceptions to the exit process so that not everyone is interviewed. This means you’re getting a slice of data, not the whole picture. As an example, employees who are not performing satisfactorily or who have been terminated are usually not invited to an exit interview. That handily skews the results as the company only hears from the happy leavers.
- The exit conversations are sometimes shielded by a bond of secrecy that dynamite wouldn’t dislodge. It begs the question: Why go through the motions of asking if you’re going to tie your own hands behind your back? Some of this, I believe, is caused by the manner in which questions are asked, rather than by direct request of the exiting employee.
- When there are problems in need of a solution, people know about them. I have never seen a case where an exit interview revealed a problem that was completely unknown and was addressed as a direct result of the exit interview.
I worry about the people who don’t leave. When they hear their departing colleague is scheduled to do an exit interview — and they do hear — are they wondering why it takes a resignation to get invited to a one-on-one consultation on how the company is doing in the areas of benefits, working conditions, and compensation? Annual employee satisfaction surveys are nice but they don’t hold a candle to individual attention and concern.
There’s another problem with exits. Once the interview is done, the departing employee may tell colleagues that they revealed all the woes afflicting the company during their exit interview and were assured that their information would be used to make the company a better place to work. It sets an air of expectation among the remaining employee population. They’re watching for something to be said; for something to change.
Those are my concerns. I’m including links to two articles, each with differing opinions on the matter. Both writers make good points for and against.
In my own experience over the last 20 years, exit interviews take place too selectively to be of any real statistical value. They also tend to be shrouded in secrecy which further reduces their usefulness.
What do you think? Do I have it wrong? Feel free to leave comments.
Over the years, the two most common objections I’ve heard during productivity discussions are:
Do you want quantity or quality?
Do you want me to spend my time on important activities or do you want me to spend my time documenting them?
I’ve never found these either/or arguments to be an effective way to build a business case – especially since past experience shows me that increased quantity can actually lead to higher quality. Does that sound crazy? Give me a few minutes and I’ll show you why it’s possible.
Recruiting & Hiring: Why more is better - If we planned a recruitment project from an efficiency perspective, it would make sense to stop interviewing as soon as we had identified the right number of candidates with the requisite skills. This would shorten the time to hire but would almost certainly result in reduced quality. Think of it this way: Selecting the top 3 candidates from 8 interviews will almost always net better hires than selecting the top 3 out of 5. This is why many companies use the services of professional recruiters who specialize in attracting, interviewing and assessing fit. A good recruiter conducts a dozen or more interviews each and every week. This ongoing volume produces sharpness in recruiters that you can’t teach. It also keeps them apprised of employment trends and makes them industry experts in their market.
Business Development: A numbers game - A less-skilled sales person with a solid daily appointment schedule will outdo a more seasoned and strategic sales person who conducts fewer face-to-face meetings. There are a couple of reasons why this holds true. The more volume, the easier it is to pick the best prospects instead of clinging hopefully to the first few with a hearing ear. The more active sales person will have deeper and broader market knowledge and contacts – both of which help them become a better consultant.
With all this activity, who has time to do data entry? It’s a common objection. Not effective, but common. Keeping records updated each day is a tiny task that takes only a few moments to demonstrate commitment to the team and to the overall goals of the organization.
So the next time you encounter the quality versus quantity argument, send them over here for a quick read.
Not many people know that I studied opera. A supremely proud coloratura soprano (E flat above high C? — no problem), I envisioned a future as the next Lily Pons. That was Monday through Thursday. On the weekends I dreamed that I would be discovered by Seals & Crofts as the perfect backup singer to their smoky lyrics. I lived with what was considered a weird dichotomy of musical interests for many years before Sarah McLachlan came along to legitimize opera as a foundation for popular music.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m living on the opposite coast dedicating my time to growing people and business. At first glance there may not seem to be a connection between studying opera and an abiding addiction to business – but here it is:
Both opera and business depend on having a well choreographed plan, getting the right people in the right roles, and – most importantly – knowing when to let someone else’s voice shine over your own.
When I read an opera score (yes, it’s true – I like to read them) I see an intricately-structured business plan with an intentional outcome. Alto, tenor, soprano, bass — they read like job titles. Recruiter, Sales, Admin Assistant, Manager… The score gives you timing – not just how quickly or slowly things should be moving but when to bring in new players or when to exit others. And then there are the divas. There are always divas.
In my singing days, the people I sang with – especially my friend Sami – were at the centre of everything for me. Sami and I studied with the same voice coaches, Leo and Norma DesJardins. She and I spent many hours, actually years, singing together. We sang everything from Rigoletto to Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit. Those were great days with great people.
It’s still all about the people.
Here’s a little treat for Seals and Crofts fans.
Peter Drucker dies at 95 (Photo credit: IsaacMao)
I’m hosting a leadership conference for a small group of very special people this week. This seems a great time to bring out some timeless gems from Peter Drucker.
- “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”
- “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”
- “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
Do you have a favourite quote or words of wisdom to share?
Whenever I use the word ‘fierce’ in the context of leadership I get raised eyebrows and looks of shock. In coaching parlance, the definition of fierce is: intense or ardent discussion. It has nothing to do with meanness or anger or doing damage. Engaging in a fierce conversation is an act of kindness. We call it fierce because it requires courage to step beyond the barriers disguised as harmless clichés and enter into true dialogue that builds understanding. It means talking about stuff that matters.
Naming the elephant in the room is where coaching and great leadership begin.
Where does vulnerability enter the picture? When we name the problem we have to be ready to discover the role we’ve played in creating it or in allowing it to continue. It may feel good and right to point out where we were wronged or let down but this is actually destructive behaviour if the conversation ends there. In my experience, bringing a sense of curiosity into play at this point helps team members gain perspective and think creatively about solutions. This includes coaching the team toward verbalizing what they could have done differently to prevent the problem in the first place. In the absence of strong leadership, a group can easily confuse free speech (tearing down) with effective problem solving (building up).
Anyone can point out what’s gone wrong or needs to be corrected. Great leaders don’t stop there; they pull their followers along the path to accountability and solution. That’s high octane performance.