DURING a particularly passionate brainstorming session in my last open workshop, "Some Quit And Leave...Others Quit And Stay", the topic of discussion was the reason employees change jobs and what individual managers can do about it.

The group quickly agreed that the most important reasons people leave fall into two main categories:

* A new career opportunity - either after active searching or being approach by a "headhunter"; and

* A problem or dissatisfaction on the current job that was not being handled correctly.

There was also fast agreement among participants that having to replace a valuable co-worker out of the blue can be both very time- and cost-consuming.

Surprisingly, there were few companies represented that had a cohesive exit strategy.

Some had no form of exit interviews at all, and representatives from other companies that did conduct exit interviews were not sure exactly how the feedback was being proactively applied as a way to limit future turnover.

Why it is important

Having an exit interview strategy lets people within your organisation know that individual managers, as well as the company as a whole, really care why someone chooses to leave.

In learning to better understand why people leave unexpectedly, organisations receive valuable insights into ways to improve employee satisfaction and prevent unnecessary turnover in the future.

There are several ways to conduct effective exit interviews.

Some organisations give out a questionnaire when people leave, asking them to hand it in on their final day or mail it back within 30 days of leaving.

Others conduct exit interviews live or by telephone, usually within a month. These person-to-person interviews are either conducted by someone from the human resource department or - for an increased level of neutrality and confidentiality - by a third party, such as a human resource consultant or coach.

Questions for interviewee

Everyone at the workshop agreed that the interview format used - while having some standard sections - must be custom-made to fit the culture, climate and needs of the specific organisation in question.

However, here are some typical exit interview questions people thought would be helpful:

* What did you enjoy most about working here?

* What did you enjoy least? Why?

* What comments or suggestions can you make to help our organisation grow stronger and more successful in the future?

* Do you feel we dealt with complaints and problems on the job in a timely and effective way? How could we have been better?

* Did you have a clear picture of your specific career possibilities within our organisation?

* What one thing would have possibly made you re-think your decision to leave?

Questions for manager

Looking over past exit interview feedback, have you noticed any trends that might indicate deeper problems or highlight new opportunities within your team or organisation? For example:

* What is the average length of time people typically work for your organisation before voluntarily leaving?

* What are the top three reasons people give for leaving your organisation?

* What are the top three positions with the highest turnover?

* Are there any specific turnover issues with certain departments or teams?

* What internal changes can be made to increase overall job satisfaction, especially among high potentials?

* What are you, personally, doing to prevent future resignations in your team?

Remember that exit interviews, when handled respectfully, provide a wealth of information that is key to helping your organisation grow, solidify and refine its success.

It will also make a former employee more likely to offer honest feedback and take a more positive image of your organisation with him into the future.