· Comment

Exit interview insights are going to waste

Your organisation is leaking top talent assets through exit interviews.

Let’s assume your organisation doesn’t have exit interviews in place; the companies wouldn’t do much with the insights even if they were, and that no one senior cares either way. These assumptions are all too valid, as they are the reality I see in many of the organisations I work with. So, in short: what a waste.

How to retain top talent and what to do if you can't:

Stay interviews: how to prevent internal talent from flying the coop

HR directors sporadic on exit interviews, says study

HR not collecting enough data to understand employees

Earlier this year I was with a client when a senior manager sent around his resignation email. It was a total shock. He was a loved leader and people seemed genuinely upset that he was leaving to go to a competitor.

What shocked me wasn’t his departure but the fact that the organisation had probably invested north of a few million pounds in his package over his five-year tenure, plus the small fortune invested in his executive education programme. He also had deep insights into the company culture and, perhaps more importantly, deep ties to many of its most valued customers. The company had spent five years building a knowledge ‘asset’ that was the reason the competition valued this leader so much.

How much value did this organisation truly place on this knowledge base? Not much. Global teams were sent a very nice email, social media posts had some good likes and a few re-shares, people discussed over lunch about what a loss it was and a cunning few started to position themselves for a well-earned (and well waited for) promotion.

Staff learnt the boss had resigned, customers learnt that they’d ‘gone on to new challenges’ and social media learnt about their wonderful journey. But the organisation had learnt, well, pretty much nothing. The way that the company’s most valuable customers liked to be engaged with? Lost, gone. The best way to deliver that all important quarterly strategic update, painstakingly honed over the previous 20 quarters? Gone, and much more besides.

This waste is indeed hazardous. It’s a hazard and a cost that I think investors should pay more attention to as this leaky knowledge bucket costs hard money. If I was investing in a business that operated this way, then I’d have serious concerns.

So, let’s start with the exit interview data – this is so easy to get and act on. The benefit is of benefit to everyone: the organisation, the culture, the customer, the shareholder, and in many cases, if the organisation is engaged in the pursuit of societal impact, society too.

I’m a fan of data so I polled 116 leaders on LinkedIn and asked “Should organisations do more with exit interview insights?" 97% of people said… yes. The people have spoken.

Wayne Clarke is founding partner of the Global Growth Institute