MaRS Library Exit interviews and startups: Learn from your departing employees
When employees leave your startup, conducting an exit interview with them can be useful. It can show you ways to better attract and retain staff in the longer term.
In a startup environment, the exit interview does not need to be a formal process. Simply making an effort to speak with an employee who has chosen to move on can generate feedback that can benefit both your startup and your employee.
To plan your exit interview, think about what you want to learn that will help you improve retention in future.
In the exit interview, convey you are open to feedback from the employee
To open the conversation, put the employee at ease and let them know that you are sorry to see them go. Convey that you are open to any suggestions about what you might do to prevent other employees from making the same decision. You may be surprised at how honest people can be when they have made a decision to move on.
The discussion during the exit interview can yield positive results. It can make employees feel that you really do care they are leaving and that you are truly interested in “what went wrong.” This might keep employees interested in perhaps returning one day, or at the least, encourage them to be positive about your startup once they leave.
Gain valuable insights from an employee perspective
This exchange can also give you valuable insights from an employee perspective, which as a leader, you may not see. Topics commonly covered in exit interviews include:
- Work interest
- Learning opportunities and/or support
- Management style
- Competitiveness of compensation and/or benefits
- Poaching activity by competitors or headhunters
- Excessive overtime or travel
- Lack of growth or promotional opportunities
- Effectiveness of tools or process
- Illegal or unethical activities
How to get value from the exit interview for your startup
To get true value from an exit interview, you need to be honestly interested in accepting any feedback without defensiveness or judgment. Your startup also needs to be willing to investigate raised issues to see if it can make improvements.