For employers, employee retention has become a crucial consideration as workers are willfully leaving their jobs at high rates. According to national statistics, a little more than 4 million U.S. employees quit their jobs in August 2021, which is an increase of more than 1 million people year over year. So, why are they leaving – and how can employers fight the trend?
Those questions don’t necessarily have straightforward answers. For example, remote workers may feel disconnected from their teams or frustrated by return-to-work requirements. Our panel research study of more than 1,000 Fortune 500 employees found that 50% of employees would look for a new job if their employer required them to return to in-office work.
But the remote work revolution is only one driver of turnover. Current research indicates that women are leaving their jobs at a higher rate than men (the so-called “Shecession”), and COVID-related concerns continue to create new challenges for human resources departments in every country.
To understand your company’s turnover (or “churn”) rates, listen to your team. Exit surveys for employees provide an exceptional resource for reducing turnover and making data-based operational decisions.
However, exit surveys aren’t as useful when isolated: To effectively measure employee experience, you’ll need to consider exit survey responses within their full context. You’ll also need to have a plan to ensure that the data tells an accurate story. Below, we’ll explain how Perceptyx’s approach to employee listening improves exit survey insights. We’ll also address a few exit survey questions and explain how they can facilitate data-driven decisions.
Exit Surveys for Employees: The “Why” and “How”
Before implementing an exit survey, think about why you’re interested in the data. What is the purpose of an exit interview, and how does the exit survey fulfill different goals? What insights will be most beneficial for your company, and how will you collect them accurately? Don’t create a survey simply because your competitors are doing it – determine how you’ll use the responses to make improvements.
For most organizations, the primary objective of an exit survey is to reduce turnover. Research shows that high turnover predicts low performance, and organizations with lower turnover than their competitors can be at a considerable advantage. Exit surveys provide a final opportunity to improve the departing employee’s experience by recognizing their contributions and asking for their feedback.
With that said, an exit survey shouldn’t attempt to change the worker’s decision directly. These are not “stay" interviews. The decision has been made, and you now need to come up with the best possible way to capture those likely drivers of turnover. By establishing your goals, you can shape your survey content more effectively.
After you’ve established why you’re doing an exit survey, you’ll need to determine the how – the best practices that will allow your enterprise to collect and use feedback. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
Employees should receive exit survey requests at an appropriate time.
Your company has a limited window to issue exit surveys and receive relevant feedback. Ideally, employees will receive surveys as soon as they’ve made their decision. If an employee leaves your organization, they’re much less likely to return useful insights.
The human resources department should send the survey to the employee’s work email address shortly after the employee declares their intent. The Perceptyx platform can be customized with HR processes to create appropriate triggers, which can improve survey response rates (and improve the amount of quantitative data generated).
Employees should only receive exit survey requests if they’ve made a voluntary decision to leave. Retirement and redundancy surveys, while important, will address different topics. Survey topics will address factors that affect turnover. (We’ll discuss effective question methodology in a moment.)
Exit survey questions should follow a clear path.
The exit survey provides an opportunity to collect a wealth of useful information. However, poorly worded questions can limit the usefulness of the data. Likewise, if questions aren’t categorized – or if the subject of the survey changes significantly from question to question – the quality of the responses can drop.
Some important factors to keep in mind:
- Questions must be actionable. Ask questions that could lead to tangible organizational changes. Remain open to the feedback, prioritize actions and be willing to take action. This is why surveys are valuable, and it begins by asking questions that can lead to action.
- Questions must be behaviorally observable. Don’t include questions that require speculation on the part of the employee. For example, “How did your coworkers feel about company-wide communications?” would not generate useful feedback, since the employee can’t tell you about other people’s experiences.
- Questions must be clearly written. We recommend addressing one topic at a time using easy-to-understand language. Avoid questions that assume the employee has a specific perspective (“What aspects of our onboarding process were extremely useful?”).
It is a good idea for exit surveys to contain enough questions to ensure insightful responses without overwhelming the respondent. The Perceptyx model includes 40 questions predominantly on a consistent response scale to aid both completion time for the respondent and support benchmarking and comparisons in reporting. Our model for exit surveys directly corresponds to the other surveys we offer throughout our employee lifecycle-based framework.
Our model improves data usability by linking survey responses throughout employment; real-time analysis through the Perceptyx platform ensures that the collected feedback is actionable and relevant. When employees answer similar questions on their onboarding and exit surveys, the data provides more clarity regarding their decision to leave.
5 Illustrative Exit Survey Questions For Employees
For larger organizations, we recommend tailoring survey prompts to fit with the company’s goals and culture. Expert customization can target specific points of interest, allowing for more efficient data-based decisions.
However, Perceptyx has also established best-practice onboarding and exit surveys that are effective for organizations of all sizes. Through internal data collection, we’ve identified the types of questions that identify potential areas for improvements.
To demonstrate our approach to survey content, we’ve included five questions we typically include on those exit surveys for employees, along with explanations for using the data productively. With each of the questions below, respondents are asked to gauge the accuracy of the statement within a set scale.
1. “My work environment enabled me to be effective in my role.”
Employees may leave if they believe their abilities are underappreciated or underutilized. If an organization’s structure doesn’t facilitate career growth or if processes don’t demonstrate appreciation, the issue needs to be addressed – the exit survey can pinpoint the exact nature of this problem.
Research indicates that employee appreciation is an especially important factor. Companies with “recognition-rich cultures” have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover rates on average, and following the best practices for recognition in the workplace can improve engagement. By asking a series of related questions about work environment and talent utilization, you can use their insights to reduce future turnover.
And if employees feel underutilized, their responses will indicate opportunities to provide more empowerment and accountability to employees. Those benefits can extend far beyond turnover management; after all, effective management begins with effective listening.
2. “I was able to balance my work and personal life.”
Autonomy is one of the core motivators of employee experience. Exit surveys can demonstrate whether the employee feels their expectations were met post-onboarding, and questions about work-life balance can establish whether the employer’s expectations aligned with those of the leaving employee. Given the rise of remote work and its complex effect on corporate cultures, questions about autonomy can have major implications for your organization.
3. “There was effective cooperation across departments.”
Cross-functional teamwork helps employees attain success. Likewise, a lack of teamwork can increase turnover. Questions about teamwork, onboarding, and communication can help your company remove barriers to engagement. The resulting changes may yield more benefits than reduced turnover: An improved communication strategy can be an invaluable asset.
4. “I could be myself at work.”
This type of question can indicate whether the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are effective. Employees want organizational support, and survey content can be useful for evaluating employer efforts.
Employees should have an opportunity to provide detailed feedback concerning DE&I. Qualitative feedback from individual employees measures the person’s experience within the organization, which isn’t always discernible by viewing quantitative data alone.
Responses can be raw, emotional, and contrary to the company’s expectations, but honest responses are extraordinarily useful. The resulting insights may facilitate improvements in company leadership behavior, onboarding processes, and other key areas.
5. “I had agreed to join another employer when I made the decision to leave the company.”
Are your employees leaving because they simply need to “get out,” or were they generally happy prior to their decision? If a competitor is aggressively targeting talent, you’ll certainly want to know, and if a large percentage of your exiting employees are leaving the workforce entirely, that’s useful information, too.
Planning For Exit Survey Analysis And Presentation
Establishing an appropriate framework for your survey is an important step, but data collection doesn’t always lead to effective analysis. As discussed earlier, your exit surveys need established objectives. Reports and summaries should directly address those objectives.
Tips to keep in mind:
- Look at the bigger picture first. What’s the company’s story, and how does it relate to the reality of the exit survey responses? Don’t focus on details without establishing an overview. Exit survey data can provide a more accurate overall picture of the company, so before delving into specific questions, assess the data in its entirety.
- Identify useful data points. Local nuances certainly deserve attention. Ask questions: What groups or job roles have the highest levels of turnover? Are male or female employees more likely to leave? Performing a deep dive can confirm or dispel preconceptions by showing how predictive data matches with reality.
- Establish an analysis frequency that works for your organization. Larger businesses with more turnover may need a monthly summary of exit survey data. Smaller organizations may prefer an annual or bi-annual report with enough quantitative data for accurate storytelling. Having a structure for using the data is important – without that structure, important questions may go unanswered.
Throughout your analysis, read qualitative feedback when considering improvements. When employees provide open, honest feedback about why they’re leaving – in their own words – you’ll certainly want to pay attention.
As we’ve discussed, some feedback may be difficult to read, but qualitative feedback can also reinforce your organization’s successful efforts. Employees may offer ideas, praise, or simple information about their life circumstances (such as when an employee is relocating). In each of these scenarios, it’s useful information for decision makers.
Finding an Exit Management Tool With Real-Time Insights
Exit survey analysis requires context. Through the Perceptyx platform, you can compare benchmarks with other businesses to determine whether employee enablement or other factors play a significant role in churn. Because our dashboard offers real-time insights, exit survey data can be consulted at any time and used to improve engagement.
To build the most comprehensive listening solution available, we’ve developed survey content that facilitates organizational success. That includes our exit survey content, as well as onboarding and strategic census surveys, which function in tandem to build better dialogues and keep your company focused on its future. Instead of simply asking questions and collecting responses at specific points in time, our platform enables employers to connect the dots between those engagement points.
Schedule a demo today to see how Perceptyx can illuminate the employee experience through improved point-in-time surveys, real-time crowdsourcing, and other listening channels.