Employee retention has been top of mind for many organizations over the past several years, especially as the labor market continues to remain tight.  Increasingly, our partner organizations have asked us to help them implement an effective exit survey to help them understand their tools for increasing retention.  In this blog post, we will explore what organizations should consider as they design their exit survey, so that it brings them actionable takeaways.

A well-executed exit survey program can provide a wealth of practical information to an organization.  In practice though, people leaders sometimes ignore their exit data in favor of data coming from engagement or onboarding surveys.  For many, the employees have left, and they would rather focus on the employees currently in their care.  For others, they simply don’t know how to make use of the information.  To avoid this trap, we recommend the following five practices for implementing a successful exit survey program.

  1. Build Credibility Through High Participation: Participation in exit surveys can be notoriously low relative to other employee feedback mechanisms.  Remove the barriers where you can: ensure you have accurate contact information for each exiting employee, provide them with a QR code or link to the survey during standard exit procedures, and make sure it is advertised as a part of the employee listening program throughout their experience at the organization.
  2. Ask Good Questions: As you design the survey, review every single question and ask, “Why is this important?”.  The data you get back should align with a business question and/or provide you with constructive evidence for making a change.
  3. Allow for Qualitative Feedback: An effective exit survey should have at least one opportunity for respondents to provide feedback in their own words.   Leaders find this information immensely valuable, and it can be an effective year-round alert system for any developing management or environmental issues.
  4. Conduct Analysis by Useful Demographics: Tenure and employee performance are two common demographics to capture.  For example, understanding why new employees leave vs. those who leave after a few years may lead to very different actions and follow-up for the organization.
  5. Develop a plan for Analysis and Access: Establish ownership of the process with one department, set up regular intervals for reviewing the data, and give leaders access to training / tools so they may understand how best to interpret and plan on the exit data.

At Spring International, we have supported our clients in developing exit survey programs that give them robust and actionable data for making change.  For example, one client found that employees who left the organization after just 90 days felt unprepared despite the training they received.  They were able to quickly evaluate their new hire training to ensure new hires felt prepared.

Common challenges to building a successful exit survey are in the bones of the program.  When the labor market was beginning to become tight, many organizations scrambled to implement an exit survey without much thought given to their employee listening strategy.  Many found a variety of different surveys being sent out, designed by different departments, with no consistency and no central repository for understanding response rates or findings.  Spring’s experience in capturing employee feedback throughout the employee lifecycle can help your organization build an exit survey into a strategic and practical data collection tool.

In today’s competitive labor market, while exit data may be viewed as a lagging indicator, it gives valuable insight on how to reduce turnover, especially among your high performers.  Further, it allows you to understand in greater detail what your competitors are offering so your employee value proposition can stay competitive.

Are you lost and unsure where to start?  Contact Spring International to learn how we can help you build an effective exit program.

These five guiding principles can help your organization gain the most out of your exit survey program.  Support your employee retention strategy with data.  Invest in a well-planned survey that asks actionable questions, engages in strategic analysis, and the thoughtful distribution of data.

Jennifer Glaeser Beck is the VP of Research and Consulting at Spring International, specializing in people analytics and building strategic data collection programs. With fifteen years of experience in the field, Jennifer helps Spring’s clients strategically grow their people analytics strategy to help them achieve their organizational goals.