No matter how great a company’s culture is, people leave companies. People leave for all kinds of reasons, so begin by embracing that truth. Somebody leaving doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fed up.
As you conduct your exit interviews, these conversations can be a valuable opportunity to look at the maintenance and upgrades your culture might need. While in a perfect world we would always know when someone is thinking about jumping ship, that isn’t reality. Here are some key questions you can ask when you do get the chance to hear from employees who are on their way out.
Start with why
When someone does tell me, “Hey, I’m thinking about going,” I say, “I just want to hear you talk about it. I want to make sure you’re running to, not running from.” It’s simple and it works. In the context of an exit interview, you should absolutely be working to discover why. You may even find that a lot of your employees are leaving because they have personal situations that their current working situation doesn’t support – aging parents, new babies, and, most recently, shifting work-life priorities amid COVID-19. When you get down to why, you can begin to think about the perks and programs you offer and if they are really keeping your best talent enabled to do their jobs.
What could we have done to keep you?
The first question is about discovery, and this one is about getting action items for yourself. What you should be aiming to get with this question is insight into the processes and expectations that exist. Each department and manager is different, and you will likely find that there are things you can do to improve. Think: manager training and culture workshops refresh or replace something that is no longer working.
Do you feel that we live our core values?
By now, anyone that knows me knows that the “Four I’s” at SailPoint are absolutely critical to the success of our business as a whole and to recruiting and retaining our amazing crew members (aka employees). While you should be checking in on and revisiting your values often to ensure they stay relevant as the business evolves, don’t leave your values out of the equation as someone leaves. They matter just as much now as they did when the person joined. Learn what you can do better to embody your values and use them to see that employee off to their next career play.
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I will leave you with this: it is often bittersweet to see an employee leave. But looking at my own experience, how can I—a guy who left the security and certainty of an established company to do a startup with friends—question others who might want to pursue that same path? Or criticize those who want to leave just to pursue a different kind of path that they are convinced is right for them?
You should encourage employees to leave well and learn from them so that you can better serve your current and future employees. And, as long as they have “left well”, it leaves the door open to welcome them back, if and when that opportunity ever comes. (Side note – because of our positive approach on how we do exits, we have a decent number of “boomerangs” at SailPoint now – those who left for good reasons and left well, and later decided to come back.) To me, this is another sign of a “healthy culture” – one where people are free to leave and return, as long as they handle the situation with professionalism and care.