Exit Interviews: tell 'em when you're going

Exit interviews are becoming popular with large companies for the information they contribute to retaining staff, according to an international recruitment consultancy.

Gareth Flynn, manager for Melbourne-based IT and finance recruiter, Robert Walters, said staff retention is one of the biggest challenges facing employers, and IT companies in particular are putting exit interviews into practice.

"Employees usually have good reasons for leaving and it is important to establish any problems and issues to try and prevent other employees from doing the same," Flynn said. Replacing and training new staff is a costly exercise in both time and money, he said.

Valda Berzins, CIO of Australia Post, manages about 560 IT staff and uses exit interviews to find out why people leave the organisation.

Berzins said staff retention is a major concern to the IT department because of the high demand for IT resources. "Generally, IT people are keen to pick up good opportunities", she said.

Berzins also agreed that it is expensive to replace staff. "Firstly, finding them due to high demand for specific skill sets, then ongoing training to ensure they are up to date."

Peter Gigliotti, assistant director central operations and systems at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, is also a user of exit interviews. He manages 124 staff including meteorologists, engineers, IT professionals, technical officers and general administration staff, and agrees that staff retention is a prime concern, particularly for recent graduates.

"We find that if we can keep younger staff for at least three years, they tend to stay as they develop a loyalty to the organisation," he saidGigliotti also said it takes considerable time and energy to train new IT staff to fit into the bureau's multidisciplinary teams.

Exit interviews can assist the employer in establishing if the company's salaries are below the market average.

However, Flynn says don't assume it's the lack of cash that gets people moving. "I wouldn't say it is just the money as I've seen people who have moved for less money."

He says managers also need to consider that personnel are after personal development rather than just a wad of cash.

Berzins says people want a fair salary, training to keep them current, exciting new projects and a good working environment with social and lifestyle offerings.

Exit interviews also give employees an opportunity to decide whether they had made a hasty decision to leave and gives them a chance to reconsider, and possibly a chance to stay, before it's too late.

For companies that have a policy of rehiring ex-employees, exit interviews also establish whether the person would be willing to return to the company at some future time.

"The employee may not be aware of any initiatives relating to their job or the company, which may help them re-assess their resignation. These can be brought to their notice in an exit interview," Flynn said.

Flynn further said an exit interview gives the employers the opportunity to find out which company the employee was moving to and what their new role is going to involve.

"Employers want to keep in touch with market trends in employment movements, technology and competitor initiatives. This is crucial in order to stay on the cutting edge and ensure staff retention," Flynn said.

Gigliotti said an exit interview is an opportunity to identify the positive aspects of the job and use them as selling points to future candidates.

"Understanding why people leave an organisation is valuable. At times, staff feel more open to discuss issues, given they are about to leave the organisation," Gigliotti said.

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