Exit Interviews: Is There A Better Alternative?

Employees won’t necessarily tell you the truth in an exit interview because they’re worried it would get back to the wrong person and possibly cause problems for them in the future. ( PORK )

Written by Troy Van Hauen, CEO, Accelerated Performance Technicians

A client with a high turnover rate of more than 45% asked me why most of his exit interview data was populated with two responses from the participants: better opportunity or higher money. However, when he checked more closely, he found that many of those employees transferred to lateral roles within the industry with similar money.

What’s going on? My simple response is that people generally don’t like to burn bridges. This fact is regardless of rank and exists on all levels.

Employees won’t necessarily tell you the truth in an exit interview because they’re worried it would get back to the wrong person and possibly cause problems for them in the future. Not only does a former colleague get thrown into hot water, but it can also tarnish the interviewee’s reputation.

Is It Worth It?

To be perfectly frank, the person leaving has already moved on and doesn’t want to invest any more of his/her unpaid time with the company or the leaders he/she has just decided to leave.

So, the question is: Do you continue investing time in your exit interviews if people are not providing accurate data?

If the data is accurate then continue with your process. However, if your situation is more like the reality of the leader previously mentioned, then an alternative is needed. I would suggest another possible tool that has a good track record when it comes to retaining employees.

Richard Finnegan’s The Power of Stay Interviews is an excellent read and a very practical model that can be integrated into any system, large or small.

Finnegan has created a process that helps you rethink retention. See The Rethinking Retention Model, below:



Finnegan’s principles are accompanied by a general explanation of each point, from my perspective:

1. Employees quit jobs because they can.

Unemployment is at an all-time low in almost every industry, with more job openings than people to fill them.

2. Employees stay for things they get uniquely from you.

These exclusive features could be the atmosphere, certain perks, or learning opportunities. It helps to define your brand to enhance your ability to attract high quality candidates.

3. Supervisors build unique relationships that drive retention or turnover.

Because workers spend so much time with their supervisors, a bond is inevitable. Sometimes the interaction is positive, and sometimes it’s negative.

4. Hold supervisors accountable for achieving retention goals.

Hold HR accountable for recruiting and supervisors for retention.

5. Develop supervisors to build trust with their team members.

People don’t leave companies; people leave their leaders.

6. Narrow the front door to close the back door.

Invest heavily upfront to see how they will fit into your culture to reduce a turnover risk.

7. Script employees’ first 90 days.

(Read the May 2018 "You Lose Money With Every Employee Turnover" for the basics for an onboarding program.)

8. Challenge policies to ensure they drive retention.

The philosophy of continuous improvement is highly applicable in this endeavor.

9. Calculate turnover costs to galvanize retention as a business issue.

Return on investment must be utilized in the tangible and intangible elements of retention to gain positive movement.

10. Drive attention from the top.

If you want immediate movement and retention, it starts with the top leader. Not participating guarantees stagnation.


I’ve had the opportunity to help several companies implement a stay interview type of approach that fits their culture. They experienced stronger retention and better boss/employee relationships. They believe this approach is enhancing their ability to build loyalty to their company. Remember, the No. 1 recruiting tool in the bag is still employee referrals.  


Troy Van Hauen, CEO, Accelerated Performance Technicians, recently served as executive vice president of human resources for The Maschhoffs, where he managed the future design, delivery and deployment of the company’s human capital programs in North America. He brings to the table intimate knowledge, as well as leadership tools and experience that executive-level and front-line supervisors have come to depend on.