two professionals meeting with a resigning employee
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How to Get Feedback from a Resigning Employee

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: What's the best way to get information from a resigning staff member? Should I ask why he's leaving or just let him go?

A: This is a golden opportunity to learn from the departing staffer, so yes, you should ask why he's leaving. Even though he may not tell you, his manager, much, it's worth a try. But understand that some employees may think that if they tell you the truth about why they're leaving, you may not like what you hear and may take some action against them, such as refusing to pay them for their accrued vacation time.

The best way to get information you can use is to have HR or someone other than the immediate supervisor do an exit interview.

To protect themselves, many employees give vague reasons for leaving, which may or may not be true. For example, some people will say their new job pays them 50 percent more than what you were paying them. This could be a ploy to get you to offer them more money to stay, and that's a tricky situation. I don't think it's a good idea to make a counteroffer to a resigning employee because if they've made a decision to leave, they may stay for a while for more money, but they're likely to be vulnerable to a higher offer from a competitor at any time.

The best way to get information you can use is to have HR or someone other than the immediate supervisor do an exit interview. Exit interviews help the organization gather information that can be used to improve policies and practices. Work with HR to make sure the right questions are included. Here are a few to consider:

  • Why are you leaving?
  • Is there anything we could have done differently to keep you?
  • If you were in charge here for a day, what's the one thing you'd change?
  • Did you feel you were paid fairly here?
  • Was our benefits package of value to you?
  • If you have another job, can you share whether your pay there is higher, lower, or the same as your pay here? What about their benefits?
  • Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to share now?

Most departing employees are willing to answer questions like these, and the information you collect can be analyzed to spot trends. For example, if you hear from a lot of people that they're leaving for better benefits, it's time to re-evaluate your offerings.

When a member of your team resigns, take the time to listen to what they're prepared to share, but request that HR do a comprehensive exit interview so that you can learn and make changes in your department if needed—and so can your organization.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

Employee Retention Employee Policies Organizational Culture