Feature Story: Exit Interview Process Improvement

Sydney Wood, Employee Relations Specialist

It’s been said by many, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been.” A motto that consistently makes me reflect on how I can improve, whether that be in my personal life or at work. I’m lucky enough to work in an environment full of people who have that same dedication to improvement. A constant question sits in the back of our minds: what can we do today to make a better future for ourselves and the university as a whole? The same sentiment extends beyond the departments of Talent Management and Human Resources. I see it in the participants of LUCO, MDP, 21CPI and the various other professional development programs on campus. I see it in the addition of the Inclusive Community office and our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. I see it in the various committees that push the campus towards positive change. Having been surrounded by this innovation, I’ve been looking inward over the past year. How can I contribute to the university’s success? What processes can I improve or make more efficient? How can I better benefit the HR team and the university as a whole? Out of many potential ideas that came to mind, one stuck out to me more than others: the exit and transfer interview process. 

This project started as a labor of love towards the end of 2020. After managing the exit interview process for a few months, I noticed that we received a lot of useful feedback from separating employees, but it was difficult to track and relied on humans to pinpoint trends that could span over years. While we always passed this feedback on to supervisors and tracked what we could, I knew there was a better, more data-driven approach we could take.

As a university, we conduct exit interviews to gain insight on what we do well and what can be improved. Additionally, we look at them to find trends as to why people are leaving the university or a specific department. The first stop in revamping this process was looking at what questions we asked and comparing them to the information we wanted to gather. I wanted to make sure the results lined up with the “why.” I started off with identifying the major stakeholders: supervisors, cabinet members and People and Culture. Taking this into consideration, I investigated how other organizations and universities conduct exit interviews. Through this research, I came up with a questionnaire that will not only provide beneficial information but makes it far easier to track trends across various aspects.

In this new format, separating employees will complete an online survey rather than a paper copy. In addition to the survey, we will still meet individuals in-person to give them an opportunity to share any other feedback that the form may not capture. This new format will allow us to address gaps that exist in the current process and personalize the questionnaire to the various types of separation—faculty versus staff, involuntary and voluntary, etc.

Alongside a monthly report, where we track monthly turnover and reasons for leaving, we will also be creating annual reports for both Human Resources and cabinet members. Now with the ability to use Power BI, these annual reports will make tracking this valuable feedback easier and gives us more information in which to make data driven decisions.

I look forward to rolling out the new process and format in the coming months. If you have any feedback over the current process or the proposed new process, please feel free to provide it to me.