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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
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