The adage might ultimately be true, but that's not really the point...is it?
The fact is that most people who leave do actually possess useful (often critical) knowledge and experience not to mention personal connections, as typically applies in sales and buying roles, and obviously business unit management.
Moreover most departing employees are delighted to share this knowledge, to help a successor, or to brief a management team, if only the organization would simply ask them politely to do so (assuming their exit is handled decently of course, which the exit interview helps to enable).
Aims and results of an Exit Interview
- They provide an opportunity to 'make peace' with disgruntled employees, who might otherwise leave with vengeful intentions or worse will spread negative word-of-mouth in the industry.
- Exit interviews are seen by existing employees as a sign of positive culture. They are regarded as caring and compassionate - a sign that the organisation is big enough to expose itself to criticism.
- Exit interviews accelerate participating managers' understanding and experience of managing people and organizations. Hearing and handling feedback is a powerful development process.
- Exit interviews help to support an organization's proper HR practices. They are seen as positive and necessary for quality and effective people-management by most professional institutes and accrediting bodies concerned with quality management of people, organizations and service.
- The results and analysis of exit interviews provide relevant and useful data directly into training needs analysis and training planning processes.
- Exit interviews provide valuable information as to how to improve recruitment and induction of new employees.
- Exit interviews provide direct indications as to how to improve staff retention.
- Sometimes an exit interview provides the chance to retain a valuable employee who would otherwise have left (organizations often accept resignations far too readily without discussion or testing the firmness of feeling - the exit interview provides a final safety net).
- A significant proportion of employee leavers will be people that the organization is actually very sorry to leave (despite the post-rationalisation and sour grapes reactions of many senior executives to the departure of their best people). The exit interview therefore provides an excellent source of comment and opportunity relating to management succession planning. Good people leave often because they are denied opportunity to grow and advance. Wherever this is happening organizations need to know about it and respond accordingly.
- Every organization has at any point in time several good people on the verge of leaving because they are not given the opportunity to grow and develop, at the same time, ironically, that most of the management and executives are overworked and stretched, some to the point of leaving too. Doesn't it therefore make good sense to raise the importance of marrying these two situations to provide advantage both ways - ie., facilitate greater delegation of responsibility to those who want it? Exit interviews are an excellent catalyst for identifying specific mistakes and improvement opportunities in this vital area of management development and succession.
- Exit interviews, and a properly organised, positive exit process also greatly improve the chances of successfully obtaining and transferring useful knowledge, contacts, insights, tips and experience, from the departing employee to all those needing to know it, especially successors and replacements. Most leavers are happy to help if you have the courage and decency to ask and provide a suitable method for the knowledge transfer, be it a briefing meeting, a one-to-one meeting between the replacement and the leaver, or during the exit interview itself.