Why exit interviews should be the first stage of any replacement hiring process

Why exit interviews should be the first stage of any replacement hiring process  Listing Image

The proverb ‘prevention is better than cure’ is a well-known saying that suggests that it is better to avoid a problem before it happens rather than deal with it after it occurs.

However, when the problem has already happened, sometimes the next best thing is to find out why it happened and do what you can to prevent it from happening again. And this is why exit interviews are crucial to not just your recruitment process but the overall health of your business. Here, we take a detailed look at not only why it is vital to conduct exit interviews but why it’s also equally important to take appropriate action afterwards.

Black Box Thinking  

‘Black Box Thinking’ is a concept that originated in the aviation industry and has been made popular by Matthew Syed’s personal development book of the same name. A black box is a flight data recorder installed in every commercial aircraft. In the event of an incident or error, information from the device is analysed to a granular level, and processes are put in place to ensure that the same thing never happens again. This is why flying is now safer than any other form of transport.

The same principle should be applied to exit interviews. If an employee is leaving your organisation for any reason other than a personal one, data can be used to prevent future attrition.

Applying 'Black Box Thinking' to exit interviews

Taking a ‘Black Box Thinking’ approach to your leavers and exit interviews will tighten your recruitment process and reduce turnover. You may also find employee motivation and productivity improve as your staff witness you taking active steps towards making your business a better place to work.

Here are some ways you can start applying this concept:

  1. Get your exit interview questions right. Like the black box on the plane, the exit interview should aim to collect as much comprehensive information as possible. This means going beyond just the surface-level reasons for an employee’s departure. You might (and probably will) hear things you don’t want to when you dig a little deeper, but this will only aid the process.
  2. Analyse the information collected. Of course, there will be outliers, and not every leaver complaint can or should be immediately addressed, but if you start to notice patterns or trends, this is your cue to take action. Primary areas of concern should include job satisfaction, workload, work-life balance, career growth opportunities, management style, and salary.
  3. Based on this analysis, you should be able to identify the key areas for improvement. For example, if 90% of leavers cite work-life balance as a primary reason, perhaps it’s time to look at working hours, annual leave allowance, or implementing hybrid or remote working.
  4. Once the areas for improvement have been clearly identified, taking action and implementing the changes is essential. Communicate the changes to your existing staff clearly and explain why you have taken these actions.


Real-world examples

It’s all well and good discussing theoretical concepts, but this is the real world. And this is the travel industry (ignoring for a second that Black Box Thinking came from the travel industry!). Things work a little differently out here.

Do they, though?

As recruiters, we hear it all. We hear from scorned ex-employees and employers – and unsurprisingly, both sides usually believe they are correct.

But when we take a second to look at the real-world data objectively, we see the same pattern and realise why exit interviews are a necessity. Excellent long-term employees who do a fantastic job feeling jaded and undervalued. They leave, give their employer their feedback, and start a new role with an employer who values them, and they excel. Meanwhile, their previous employer conducts the same exit interview with their ever-changing payroll, making little to no changes, so it continues.

We recently placed a candidate who had been with the same employer for several years and one of a handful who had survived COVID redundancies. She left due to an ever-increasing workload, had no work-life balance, and her employer showed no appreciation for her effort.

Bottom line

Learning from your exit interviews, rather than just going through the motions, can significantly improve your turnover, employee satisfaction, and perhaps even your overall business reputation. Fi at Ambitions Travel Recruitment has extensive experience in helping businesses create a culture of continuous improvement and retain top talent. If you’re unsure where to start refining your exit interview process and applying the data to your business, get in touch with Fi.

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