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If you’re racking your brain wondering the best way to get honest feedback from your employees and can’t land on an answer, think about exit surveys. Read on to learn why these are so beneficial, the different types, and some sample questions.

What Is an Exit Survey?

Surveying exiting employees helps you identify trends in your organization. Think about the people who leave your organization. Not all of them are leaving completely satisfied with your company, but not all of them are leaving completely miserable, either, and that’s where the beauty of exit surveys come into play. You’re able to poll those employees and utilize the data to better push your organization forward. Keep these surveys anonymous for the best feedback.

Why Are Exit Surveys Beneficial?

Let’s look at a few ways exit surveys can benefit your organization.

  • Understand employees’ perspective. Try as you might, understanding the employee perspective is difficult. You and their managers may miss their pain points no matter how many meetings or discussions take place. An exit survey allows them to share that information comfortably and honestly.
  • Reduce turnover. The information you receive from exiting employees can be turned into positive resources for your current and future employees. If many of your employees feel that the management team in a specific department is too intense, it’s time to step in and coach your management on leadership flexibility. From a few exit interviews, you could prevent a few more.
  • Give team members a voice. When employees are given an avenue to voice their concerns, things typically go more smoothly. You don’t want disgruntled team members posting negatively about your organization on social media, so allow them an avenue to be heard and speak their truth with the hope that the organization will learn from it and make changes for the rest of the employees.

Types of Exit Surveys

Now that you understand the benefits of an exit survey, let’s review the different types you can utilize at your company. Keep in mind that here, we’re not talking about exit interviews, just surveys.

Online Surveys

The most popular—and for good reason, as they are the easiest and least expensive to facilitate—are online surveys. Utilize your company’s internal internet or a third-party platform and have employees jump on and answer a few questions before they depart. You could make this an exit-week task along with turning in computers and badges; just another item to check off instead of a daunting task before they leave. This type of exit interview is completely anonymous and may lead to more responses.

Phone Surveys

Conducting a phone exit survey can go one of two ways: either you have an employee call in to a hotline and answer the questions to an automated recording, or you have an interviewer on the phone with the employee. This avenue is not as confidential. It’s similar to an online exit survey but leaves some room for the interviewer to ask follow-up questions (entering the arena of an exit interview as opposed to just a survey). To generate consistent, valid data, stick with the same five to ten questions before venturing into more open-ended follow-ups.

In-Person Surveys

The advantage of this type of exit survey is that while it won’t be anonymous, you are able to evaluate body language as well as take the answers to the questions at face value. Keep the exit survey questions consistent and avoid heading into an exit interview, unless it’s all happening at one point. In-person exit surveys and phone surveys can be more personal, but best practice would be to allow your employees the confidentiality of an online survey so they are more likely to speak freely.

Example Questions for an Exit Survey

Once you land on the type of exit survey you would like to conduct, you’re ready to generate questions.

Two best practices: keep it brief and keep it simple. You’d probably like to ask many questions, but the longer the survey, the less likely employees are to actually complete it or to complete it honestly. Keep the survey between five to ten questions that can be answered within 30 minutes. Be sure your questions are clear and easy to respond to and more employees will be inclined to answer overall.

You can ask these questions as multiple choice, true or false/yes or no, or leave them as a fill-in-the-blank, but be sure to allow for an answer that will provide your employee the space to voice their opinions and get the data you need. It’s important to note that fill-in-the-blank answers are hard to quantify into data for your results; only ask these when you want more subjective, personal responses, and stick with the other answer choices predominantly.

When writing questions, it’s easiest to think about four basic categories: their job, management, the company overall, and their reason for leaving.

Job-Specific Questions

First and foremost would be the job-specific questions for your exiting employees. You want to dive into their roles and see if this exit was mostly because their role no longer fit their passions or the issue was bigger overall.

  • What did you like most about your role?
  • What did you like least about your role?
  • Do you feel you had the tools, training, and resources to be successful in your role?
  • Has your job description changed since you were hired?
  • Do you believe your pay/benefits package was competitive?

Management-Specific Questions

Management can be a major factor in employees choosing to leave the organization, so be sure to add management-specific questions to any exit survey. Allow your exiting employees to express the good, the bad, and the ugly, if it exists, and learn from your mistakes as an organization. Ask questions that generate feedback for your management team.

  • Do you feel you were valued and recognized by management?
  • What kind of feedback did you receive from your supervisor, and how often?
  • How could your supervisor have helped you more in your role?
  • How would you describe your supervisor’s management style?
  • How would you describe the management style of the organization overall?

Company-Specific Questions

The dream is that you have a company culture that employees rave about even after they leave. It’s okay to ask pointed questions here about what you can do to improve the company; hopefully it shows the exiting employee that you value their opinion and hope to continually improve the organization from these answers.

  • How was your overall experience working for this company?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • Do you feel like the company valued you as an employee?
  • What could we do to make this a better place to work?
  • Would you recommend our company as a great place to work? Why or why not?

Reason-for-Leaving Specific

Potentially the most difficult to ask but valuable to get answered are the reason-for-leaving questions. Be direct and professional as you dig down to why they are leaving and what your organization could have done, if anything, to prevent it.

  • How did you learn about the job opening for the new position you accepted?
  • What made you start looking for a new job?
  • Why did you accept that job specifically over another?
  • What makes your new job more attractive than your current job?
  • What might we have done to prevent you from leaving?

How to Start Using Exit Surveys

When it comes to implementing exit surveys in your organization, there are a few things to consider.

Step 1: Select Your Survey Platform

Decide if you’re going to use an internal platform to create and manage your exit surveys or if you want to utilize an external vendor. Gathering the exit survey information should not add a huge administrational burden. If you look for a vendor, consider popular ones like Sparrow or Qualtrics, or search out current reviews of exit interview management systems.

Step 2: Choose a Method of Data Collection

You need a way to collect the data for your organization to start learning from it. Whether you’re utilizing a survey platform that collects the data for you, or you collate it manually, keep the collection process as streamlined as possible.

Step 3: Use the Data

Utilize the data as a resource for change in your organization. For example, you might have discussions with managers if your exit surveys show a problem in management, or with higher level executives if you’re noticing a fundamental organizational issue expressed in the surveys.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Exit Surveys

There should only be no more than ten questions, and the whole survey should take no more than 30 minutes to complete. 

While both provide an opportunity for employees leaving your organization to give constructive feedback, an exit interview is usually conducted more formally with a member of your HR team and is more of an interactive dialogue about why the employee is leaving. An exit survey is a list of questions answered to provide your organization with an array of confidential data without more specific, probing questions.

Shalie has over 4 years of experience working in a variety of HR positions and organizations including: working as an HR department “of one”, working with a start-up based in Europe, to working in a fully established robust USA based HR department. Shalie has experience in multiple states and countries with all aspects of the HR spectrum. She has a passion to share her knowledge and experience to benefit the HR profession!

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