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The Exit Interview – key to staff retention and culture building

The real­i­ty is that staff and col­leagues leave. No mat­ter how much time and effort you put into reten­tion strate­gies, you sim­ply can­not keep them all.

With­in an NGO or com­mu­ni­ty group they are most often peo­ple we’ve worked close­ly with and togeth­er faced the chal­lenges of organ­i­sa­tion­al growth. While it can be hard to accept the res­ig­na­tion of a valu­able staff mem­ber or col­league, it can also offer a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about their expe­ri­ence work­ing with us. A depart­ing staff mem­ber is unusu­al­ly can­did, and their open­ness can help us craft and fine-tune our work­place to enhance our team and work­place cul­ture.

When F2F isn’t best

I’ve always used online exit inter­views sent via email attach­ment.

This way the depart­ing staff mem­ber can, with­out the pres­sures and awk­ward­ness of a face to face inter­view, answer more reflec­tive­ly, insight­ful­ly and hon­est­ly.

I let depart­ing staff know that I will be send­ing this and that while their com­pli­ance is vol­un­tary, their con­tri­bu­tion will be tak­en seri­ous­ly and val­ued by our organ­i­sa­tion. If I haven’t heard back with­in 30 days – which would be unusu­al, I will send the attach­ment again with reminder. No fur­ther reminder will fol­low if I haven’t heard back.

What kind of questions?

Use all or some of these 11 inter­view ques­tions and shape them to your unique organ­i­sa­tion­al needs.

  1. What prompt­ed you to start look­ing for anoth­er job?
  2. Did you feel ade­quate­ly recog­nised for your con­tri­bu­tions? If not, how do you think recog­ni­tion could have been bet­ter?
  3. Do you feel you were ade­quate­ly remu­ner­at­ed for your posi­tion?
  4. Did you feel respect­ed and val­ued, with­out bias or prej­u­dice as a per­son?
  5. Do you feel your job descrip­tion changed since you were hired, and if so, in what ways?
  6. Did you feel you had the tools, resources and work­ing con­di­tions to be suc­cess­ful in your role?
  7. Do you feel you had the nec­es­sary train­ing to be suc­cess­ful in your role? If not, how could it have been bet­ter?
  8. What was the best part of your job here?
  9. What areas do you feel [organ­i­sa­tion] can improve on?
  10. Do you have any sug­ges­tions for improv­ing staff and team cul­ture?
  11. Is there any­thing else you’d like to men­tion?

Remem­ber that inter­views are easy to admin­is­ter and pro­vide invalu­able organ­i­sa­tion­al insight.

Steve Tollestrup

Director at Ploughshare
Ploughshare's Director has worked in community development, local government and corporate management for over thirty years both in New Zealand and throughout the developing world. He brings a wealth of expertise in fundraising, governance, strategic planning, change management, leadership development and coaching, advocacy and public communication.
Steve Tollestrup

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