Ditch The Exit Interview - Consider This Instead

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Ah, the joy of the exit interview. No matter why an employee leaves a company, it's an awkward experience.

Most of the time, it's reasonable for employees to ask themselves if HR really wants to get meaningful feedback. After all, by the time someone is in the exit interview, the deed is done. They've resigned. They're outta there.

Even when someone does choose to share meaningful feedback, HR may or may not want to engage with it. Let's face it - for HR, meaningful feedback means more work. Cataloging information and taking steps that lead to change are much harder than a friendly chat, a firm handshake, and don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

As discussed in my previous column, companies need efficient, effective and consistent processes to transform information into action.

Bottom line - exit interviews have a dubious track record for being translated into positive organizational change.

What if there's a better way?

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing Adam Grant speak. Grant is the youngest professor to receive tenure in the history of Wharton Business School. He authored the bestselling books Give and Take, The Originals and co-authored his latest book, Option B, with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Grant’s Ted Talks have each been viewed millions of times. To put it mildly, he’s not a slacker.

In discussing the problems with exit interviews, Grant identified an interesting substitute – what if companies conducted entry interviews instead?

Entry interviews achieve three important objectives:

1. Improve employee loyalty
2. Reduce misunderstanding and miscommunication
3. Enhance customer experience

Improve Employee Loyalty

When employers conduct entry interviews, they send a message to new employees – namely, that new hires are valued by the company. Entry interviews integrate employees into a company by having managers ask employees what they want from the position and how they work best. When employers ask questions, and listen to the answers, employees feel appreciated. Entry interviews, “can strengthen employees' feelings that managers value and care about them, which is an important driver of satisfaction, performance and retention,” according to Grant.

Starting an employer/employee relationship with entry interviews can also foster better connection, which can lead to more mentoring, enhanced learning and professional development.

Reduce misunderstanding and miscommunication

When employees come on board, they often have an array of motivations for taking a job. If there’s a disconnect, it can create blocks for a company.

Here’s one story from my own experience…

My first job after business school was for a top-tier newspaper company. Our customer service call center was having a terrible time with employee retention, and I was tasked with finding – and fixing – the problem.

I started interviewing managers and employees at the call center. No patterns were emerging, and I was stumped. Finally, a call center rep mentioned something about the Burger King up the street. I didn’t understand her meaning, and asked for explanation. With a little more conversation, a shocking tidbit emerged.

Our call center was paying less than the fast food restaurant.

Any time an rep had a chance to flip burgers, my company, known around the world for its excellence, was losing employees.

Imagine how much time, money and anguish was spent on misunderstanding and miscommunication at the call center, which might have been avoided by appreciating employee motivation.

Enhance customer experience

In most cases of undiagnosed employee unhappiness, not only are employees negatively impacted, but so are customers. Shift employee happiness and customers get the benefit, too.

When employees feel valued, they are more inclined to have job satisfaction. That satisfaction spills over to customer engagement in positive ways. Interactions with happy employee are more likely to produce better customer conversations and better outcomes. Loyal employees beget loyal customers – and companies win.

What was once a call center filled with employees biding their time until they could work for Burger King became a call center of better compensated, well-trained team members. Once we identified the misunderstandings, we adjusted compensation and added more professional development. Retention soared and so did customer satisfaction. The company finally had a call center that was worthy of its overall reputation for quality.

What should you ask employees in your entry interviews? Focus on the following topics:

• Interests
• Values
• Preferences
• Knowledge
• Skills
• Career aspirations

By changing the timing of employee interviews from exit to entry, companies can boost employee loyalty, reduce miscommunication, and enhance customer experience – all of which improve company satisfaction and, by extension, profitability.

Ali Cudby is the founder of Your Iconic Brand.

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