Have Exit Interviews Lost to Stay Interviews ?
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Have Exit Interviews Lost to Stay Interviews ?

by Ashok Grover

In corporate world, exit interviews have been in vogue for a long time. Can the relatively new concept of Stay Interviews that provides a lot of value, replace exit interviews? Are exit interviews no more relevant? Read here.

In corporate world, job hopping is quite a normal phenomenon and employee exit interviews have been used and misused with equal expertise. Interestingly, the two main arguments against the use of this tool are opposite to each other – First, anyone who is leaving will not like to burn the bridges and will no say anything against anyone. So the feedback is all hunky-dory and no truth comes out in such interviews. And second, the one who is leaving feels that the grass is greener on the other side of the hedge.  As such, may not be in a position to appreciate anything in the current organization.  Now, what is the use of listening to all the bullshit, the departing employee has to offer? 

You may subscribe to this view or the other, if you so like; but how valid these arguments are? Does it not sound like saying that the picture is either black or white, whereas the reality is an in between array of unlimited shades of gray?

Further, the votaries of Stay interviews feel that it is better to listen to the employees while they are with us rather than wasting time by indulging into unpleasant and useless talk when they have decided to leave. 

While the first half of the above statement is undoubtedly true, the latter half is failing to see and appreciate the big picture. Let us try to analyze.

Somebody said that exit interviews are like conducting post-mortem on a dead body.  It does not help the deceased; but the research / investigation conducted on it can help many more living beings. While agreeing with this, I add to it that conducting exit interviews is much more skilled job than conducting a post mortem. In the latter, the body is dead and you can do a mechanical job without bothering about any kind of response. However, exit interviews are conducted on living beings and the responses can widely vary depending upon how and by whom they are being handled.  There is no standard approach which can be applied to one and all.  Depending on the response, you have to adjust and change track as you move ahead.  That is the biggest single reason for the failure of exit interviews.  You can not expect a useful feedback by just throwing a standard questionnaire on somebody’s face, who has to fill it as a part of formalities needed to get his dues or relieving letter.  Open, heart-to-heart talk is an essential requirement for this exercise.  If you don’t have time or attitude for the same, don’t blame the tool.

Stay interviews is a great tool; but they can not be the replacement for exit interviews. After all, there is going to be some attrition.  Zero departures are never desirable. In spite of an excellent system of stay interviews, certain feedback will come only at the time of exit. Stay interviews and Exit interviews are not conflicting but complimentary to each other.  Let there not be “either this or that” approach. You can use the power of both.  No doubt, a casual approach can destroy any good tool, whether this or that!

Ashok Grover is an expert in people assessment and focused executive / leadership coaching. He is Director at Skillscape, a company with a vision of Value Creation by enhancing people and organizational competencies.

His last assignment was with the JBM Group as Corporate Chief Human Resource Officer. He has over four decades of experience in operations, materials, information technology and people development with Parle Group, Mohan Meakins Group, Hawkins Cookers Limited and JBM Group.

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