ATD Blog

Exit Feedback Is Essential

Monday, July 2, 2018

Employee engagement is higher when leaders show they are committed to understanding and improving turnover. Collecting exit feedback can help your organization avoid costly attrition in the future and assure employees of your current commitment to their well-being. The latest employee engagement survey data from LSA Global shows:

  • 93 percent of employees believe that exit feedback is important
  • 87 percent of employees believe that their feedback can help others at the organization.·

Employee Turnover Is Too Expensive to Ignore

While you should do all you can to retain your top talent, some will eventually leave. Smart talent leaders collect and act on exit data to mitigate future turnover risks and costs. Here are just some of the costs associated with an exiting employee:

  • lost business if exiting employee goes to a competitor
  • lost engagement when retained employees see a peer leaving
  • lost money and time hiring a replacement
  • lost money, time, and team productivity training a new employee
  • lost productivity while the replacement takes time in the early stages of the learning curve
  • lost business through inevitable learning errors.

Options to Collect Employee Exit Feedback

The two main ways to collect exit feedback are through exit interviews or exit surveys. Let’s look at the pros and cons for each.

The Exit Interview. An exit interview is a conversation with an employee who is leaving your organization to discuss their reasons for leaving, to understand their experience of working for the organization, and to identify how the organization needs to change to better attract, develop, engage, and retain top talent going forward. Done right, exit interviews can build long-term relationships and uncover hidden challenges that need to be addressed.


Exit interview pros:

  • A conversational-style allows for the interviewer to guide the conversation as needed, focusing, clarifying, or following up on areas of distress or concern.
  • Body language and other in-person context clues add information.

Exit interview cons:

  • Exiting employees have a tendency to sugarcoat things in order to leave a good last impression. Face-to-face interviews exacerbate this tendency.
  • Interviews don’t allow much time to reflect before answering.

The Exit Survey. Similar to an exit interview, an exit survey is an online or offline questionnaire that an employee fills out to capture a complete picture of their time with the organization. The goal is to get actionable insights into the impact their departure will have on the organization, to understand why the employee is leaving and if their departure could have been avoided. Another goal is to learn what the exiting employee is doing next. Done right, exit surveys can identify trends and provide important talent management benchmarks.


Exit interview pros:

  • Surveys are easily distributed and accessible.
  • Survey consistency allows for trend analysis.
  • Confidentiality allows the employee to tell hard truths without fear of losing a recommendation.
  • Can include 360 degree feedback from peers, managers, direct reports, and other key stakeholders to balance biases, fill in gaps and show current employees that leadership is committed to understanding and improving the workplace

Exit interview cons:

  • A survey may be an impersonal way for an employee to mark their leaving.
  • Surveys are much easier to ignore, avoid, and leave uncompleted.

The Bottom Line

Organizations should collect feedback from both the exiter and their peers to identify key trends and provide important talent management benchmarks. LSA Global recommends starting with a 360-degree exit survey, followed by interviews to fill in any content or relationship gaps. This allows an organization to gather standardized data, dive deeper into employee responses, and provide a complete picture of why people leave.

About the Author

Tristam Brown is chairman and CEO of LSA Global, where he is responsible for the overall strategic direction and management of the company and client services. He has more than 25 years of consulting and management experience. Prior to joining LSA Global, he served as vice president of organizational strategies at Proxicom, an e-business consulting and development company, where he ran human resources, organizational development, recruiting, training, and internal communications. He also previously he served as chairman of the National Outward Bound Professional Committee and director of Outward Bound Professional for the West Coast, where he ran the corporate leadership training and consulting division for Fortune 1000 Corporations. He currently serves on the boards of Outward Bound California, the Chief Learning Office Business Intelligence Board, and Advertising Audit & Risk Management (AARM).

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