What should a retailer ask at an exit interview?
At Patagonia, exit interviews don’t start by asking why the employee is leaving but what inspired them to join in the first place.
“After that it’s, ‘Did we do that?’ ‘What was the experience we delivered for you?’ ‘Where was the difference in that?,’” said Patagonia’s chief human resources officer Dean Carter last month at Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit in Salt Lake City, according to Quartz.
The goal is to “hear their story” and avoid as much adversarial conversation as possible.
“Sometimes,” added Mr. Carter, “we’ll both be crying over where we both missed the experience [for] Patagonia.”
Mr. Carter noted that he’s fortunate to have the time to conduct such extensive interviews. Patagonia’s turnover rate at the corporate level is only four percent annually.
Exit interviews offer opportunities for employers to gather insights into the workplace, including identifying problems with specific managers or shortcomings with a company’s culture or resources. An exiting employee should presumably be allowed to speak freely without fear of reprisal.
According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), however, exit interviews are often unproductive because exiting employees can be fearful of burning bridges and undermining their future career prospects. Some firms use anonymous surveys to gain more honest answers.
Many departing employees, according to HBR, have already “checked out mentally” by the time of the exit interview and fail to provide meaningful feedback.
Some employees may also become annoyed the employer didn’t seek out their feedback well before their exit.
For their part, those doing the interviewing may want to avoid a tense situation and they may be biased. A formal process for responding to any actionable insights from such interviews is often missing at firms.
Finding time for an exit interview with so many exits appears to be a particular challenge for retail. A survey of retail HR executives from Korn Ferry that came out last November found part-time hourly store employees had an 81 percent turnover rate on average. Retail corporate positions saw the lowest turnover rates at retail, at 15.6 percent.
- At Patagonia, exit interviews are rare—but they go deep – Quartz
- Retail Employee Turnover Up As Black Friday And Holiday Shopping Season Nears, According To Korn Ferry Hay Group Survey Of Top U.S. Retailers – Korn Ferry Hay Group
- Making Exit Interviews Count – Harvard Business Review
- Do You Need To Conduct Exit Interviews? 10 HR Pros Weigh In – Forbes
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are exit interviews more practical and valuable at the store level or at the corporate level? What tips would you have for managers who administer them? What questions should they ask?