Whether it is our Government or the HR system in organisations, at some point, everybody needs a reality check. While the media provides it to the Government, when it comes to business, it is the exit interviews in that help look back and fix shortcomings in the work culture. But sadly, very few organisations take their exit interviews seriously, according to a study by Harvard Business School.
The purpose of an exit interview is to know why an employee is leaving. If something is found to be wrong with the environment of the company, the exit interview gives the HR a chance to look into it and take necessary action.
What discourages organisations from conducting exit interviews is that, many people are very dishonest with their responses. Employees are afraid that if they tell the truth, they may have to face certain repercussions.
“In my experience, 99 per cent of employees lie during their exit interviews,” states Bikram K Nayak, head HR, L&T NxT.
Technological interventions have tried to bring about some changes. But are organisations really dependent on these digitally-empowered platforms and tools to conduct their exit interviews and unearth the real truth?
Talking to Nishant Madhukar, group HR head, Ferns and Petals, HRKatha found out that the company earlier used a digital platform to conduct exit interviews but later came to realise it wasn’t very useful.
“At Zivame, we do have a digital tool to conduct exit interviews but it is just like a tick in the box for us. Our HR department shares a great relationship with the employees. This allows them to be very frank and honest during exit interviews”
“The employees were worried about anonymity, and because it was a digital platform and the data was also stored, people used to give candid responses,” shares Madhukar.
He also revealed that many questions went unanswered and only certain mandatory questions got candid responses. So, after doing away with the tool, Ferns and Petal adopted another approach.
Instead of conducting the interview just after the employee leaves, the Company now taps the employee(s) two or three months later.
“This allows the former employee enough time to find another job and also discard the fear of any retaliation from the previous organisation. This also gives us the opportunity to compare,” explains Madhukar.
“Digitising the exit interview process has helped us a great deal in identifying potential people risks and improvement areas. As an organisation present in over 60 locations in India, it was not always possible to reach out to and spend time with each employee that quit”
Though HRMS software—which come equipped with features to conduct exit interviews— give insights to the responses / data collected in exit interviews, the efficiency of such tools depends on the scale of the company as well.
“Working in small and big companies, I can say that in big companies these HR tools may be efficient,” says Siddharth Vishwanath, HR head, Zivame.
He strongly believes that if the HR can understand the pulse of the employees and have a strong connect with them, they will get positive and accurate responses during exit interviews.
“At Zivame, we do have a digital tool to conduct exit interviews but it is just like a tick in the box for us. Our HR department shares a great relationship with the employees. This allows them to be very frank and honest during exit interviews,” shares Vishwanath.
As per Amit Malik, chief people officer, Aviva Life Insurance, it has been three years since the Company digitised the exit interview process. It faced a few problems in the beginning, but gradually streamlined the process.
“When we digitised our exit interviews the employees were worried about anonymity, and because it was a digital platform and the data was also stored, people used to give candid responses”
Digitisation of the exit interview process allowed the Company to reach out to all the employees who exited.
“Digitising the exit interview process has helped us a great deal in identifying potential people risks and improvement areas. As an organisation present in over 60 locations in India, it was not always possible to reach out to and spend time with each employee that quit. This was further complicated by the high attrition rate in front-line sales,” shares Malik.
It helped Aviva get more responses, even from locations where HR SPOCs were not present. It also allowed the organisation to capture and analyse large amounts of data, which helped identify bad practices in certain locations and functions.
“It is never easy to determine whether responses from the employees are accurate and honest. The biggest advantage of a large data set is that individual responses, even if inaccurate, will make a smaller impact and one can start to see patterns emerging. For this reason, while collecting responses, we are focussed more on capturing the reasons or instances that caused employees to feel a certain way, than on simply putting up a rating scale,” mentions Malik.
According to Nayak, it depends on who is doing the exit interview. If it is a person who is trustworthy and shares a great rapport with the employee(s), the departing employee(s) may be willing to talk openly about many things.
“We should always give a positive experience to the employee(s) during exit interviews as they will become the ambassadors of our employer brand to the outside world, and may even come back”
But at the end, organisations should be very sensitive during exit interviews and bid farewell to the parting employee(s) on a positive note.
“We should always give a positive experience to the employee(s) during exit interviews as they will become the ambassadors of our employer brand to the outside world, and may even come back,” asserts Nayak.
Looking at the examples from Ferns and Petal and Zimave, it is clear that HR tech platforms which enable exit interviews are not always useful to the organsiations. On the other hand, a big organisation, such as Aviva Life Insurance is enjoying a great experience from their use.
Exit interviews are very essential and important. They are very sensitive and should have a human intervention. While technology can be used to get valuable insights from the data, collected through these interviews, accurate and honest responses cannot be guaranteed.
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