How to create a damn good employee exit survey

How to create a damn good employee exit survey

By Partwell media team

Get insight into our best advice on how to create a great offboarding experience for your employees.

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What are employee exit interviews?

Exit interviews are processes to gain insight into the reasons behind employee termination. Exit interviews can be performed in three ways:

  1. Person-to-person
    A sit-down meeting involving the human resources department as well as the direct supervisor of the leaver.
  2. Phone or video call
    A phone or video conversation involving the HR department as well as the direct supervisor of the leaver.
  3. Exit survey
    Send out a survey to the departing employee. If the survey leaves any open questions or is missing detailed information schedule a call or in-person meeting.

In this article, we will focus on exit surveys. We have found exit surveys to be the best approach to exit interviews. Exit surveys produce comparable and standardized data without putting too much additional workload on HR departments. Furthermore, it is possible to automate a lot of the workload related to exit surveys with a capable tool. One of these tools is Partwell HR (we are the creators of Partwell HR).

Our advice on performing employee exit interviews

HR processes are subject to frequent innovation. Among the operational HR processes, exit interviews are a constant source of confusion and ambiguity. In a study involving 88 executives and 32 leaders from 210 organizations, Harvard Business Review researchers found that nearly three-quarters of the organizations conducted exit interviews. The same study found that only 33% of exit-interview-performing managers could name a specific action taken as a result of an exit interview.

Most exit interview programs fail due to a lack of data-quality, execution, or inability to analyze and communicate the information continuously. In this article, we want to provide you with an actionable list that you can use to create a "damn good" employee exit program and survey.

1 Collect exit data from every employee

Many companies only perform exit interviews with high-level executives. This does not only lead to bad and biased results but prevents you from identifying attrition triggers and trends. Effective employee exit programs collect data from every leaver. This includes e. g. employees who were terminated involuntarily, retirees, and interns.

2 Use standardized questions

In-person meetings bear the risk of yielding meaningless data when it comes to improving your organization continuously. Don't try to interpret subtext, focus on comparable and standardized data that allows for strong conclusions.

3 Ask relevant questions

Often, we see companies that use old-fashioned questionnaires that contain a lot of questions that are only relevant to a small subset of employees. Reading a page that starts with: "If you've chosen Option A on Page 3, continue with Question 12" will disengage your interviewees. Use a modern survey tool that allows for conditional questions & branching.

4 Get it right the first time around

Changes to your employee exit survey will cause data inconsistency. Getting your exit program wrong can put you back to square one.

5 Actively distribute exit interview information

Have a process in place to share exit data with executives in your organization regularly. Start a conversation. Get people involved.

6 Include non-obvious modules

Often, HR departments want to focus on domains that are highly influenced by HR. It can be tempting to not include non-obvious modules. These non-obvious modules often turn out to be very valuable to the entire organization. E. g. have you ever considered the quality of your knowledge transfer process on departure?

7 Ask hard questions

Most employees appreciate being asked well-thought-out questions that make them consider aspects of your organization they haven't before. One of the standard exit survey questions in the Partwell exit survey is: "Would you recommend us as an employer to a member of an ethnic minority group?". Many employees haven't been asked questions like this before. Don't be afraid to ask hard questions.

8 Store alumni data with data security and privacy in mind

Exit interviews are a great place to ask alumni for their private contact data in case you want to stay in touch with them. They are also a great place to get explicit and regulatory compliant consent to store this data. You can use a B2B tool to automate this for you (try Partwell or alternatives).

9 Offer an incentive for the survey completion

Try to articulate the advantages of completing the survey clearly. Offering an incentive can dramatically improve completion rates of your exit surveys. Incentives can involve rehiring opportunities, alumni events, etc.

10 Do not stop after the exit interview

If you want to become a great employer you should not stop after the exit interview. Use the collected data to build an effective rehiring program.


Building a great offboarding experience for your employees is hard. However, understanding why employees leave can be one of your greatest tools to stop it from happening. Employers who invest in creating a professional offboarding and rehiring program profit from dramatically increased retention rates and reduced turnover rates.

Partwell is a service that helps companies build delightful offboarding programs by leveraging exit interviews and alumni rehiring. Contact us for more info.

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