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How to Encourage Leaving Employees to Give Honest Feedback

In any type of business, you can expect to see your share of employees who resign for one reason or another. Whether they leave for personal reasons or for reasons having more to do with the culture of the company is sometimes difficult to determine.

One of the best ways to learn why employees leave is to ask for honest feedback during their exit interviews. While most people will participate in exit interviews, they may or may not be forthcoming with exactly why they are leaving.

Wondering how you can encourage leaving employees to give honest feedback? Keep reading to find out.

What is Honest Feedback?

Most people know that honest feedback literally means to say what you really mean about a certain topic. However, in most situations, people tend to sugar-coat their true feelings for the sake of not burning bridges.

This is not to say that people are lying when they state why they are leaving a company, but rather that they want to leave on a good note. If the employee has had a bad experience, and they state this, the fear of not getting a good reference may hinder their honesty.

One of the questions, as a company, that you should be asking is whether or not you truly want honest feedback from employees who are leaving. The reason for this is if you ask for it, you should be willing to do something with it as well.

Asking for honest feedback from employees who are leaving the company is the only way to know what brought them to resign. By accepting resignations but never asking for feedback, you will never know if there is a systemic issue within the organization that can be addressed.

Why do Companies Need Honest Feedback from Employees Who are Leaving?

While, in recent years, there has been a higher-than-usual turnover rate, there are some organizations that have not experienced it on the same level. Even though many people are choosing to leave the workforce, it is important to understand why.

In most cases, employees only choose to leave when a force, whether inside or outside the company, causes them to make a change. This change can be due to reasons within the organization or may be unrelated to the company itself.

High turnover rates within an organization typically indicate that there is a systemic issue somewhere down the line. The only way to learn what is going on is to ask for honest feedback from those who are choosing to leave.

Companies need honest feedback from their employees who are resigning for a few different reasons, including being able to address issues that exist somewhere down the line. When an employee gives honest feedback, managers have a better opportunity to address the issues at hand.

Three yellow smiley face balloons.
Companies need feedback in order to improve employee retention.

What are Some Barriers to Employees Giving Honest Feedback When They Leave?

In many cases, those who have chosen to leave an organization are reluctant to give honest feedback which leads them to their resignation. Many people believe that leaving a company on a positive note is much better than being honest about their reasons.

There are many barriers that keep employees from being honest in the feedback they give to management. By overcoming these barriers, managers can get to the heart of why employees leave.

Read on to learn more about the barriers that keep employees from giving honest feedback when they choose to leave.

  • Employees may assume that instead of true honesty, management only wants to hear the positive side of their work experience at the company. This assumption can hinder the process of understanding why an employee is leaving the company.
  • It is also possible that employees who have chosen to leave the company do not have experience with giving honest feedback. This can keep them from giving helpful feedback for fear that they may not do it correctly.
  • Many employees believe that if they are completely honest with their employer about the reasons they are leaving, they may not get a good reference. If they have not secured another position yet, they may need you as a reference which can hinder their willingness to leave more honest feedback.
  • Other employees who have chosen to leave a specific organization may see no point in giving honest feedback. The reason for this is that since they are leaving, they do not understand why their feedback would be useful and not just hurt the manager’s feelings.
  • The reason some employees only pay lip service when leaving is that they believe that there is no point in honest feedback. This is mostly because they do not see what good it would do since it will not change their minds about leaving in the first place.

Creating a Culture of Giving Honest Feedback

Organizations that create a culture of giving honest feedback from the beginning often have an easier time getting employees to give it when they leave. This means incorporating feedback as part of the onboarding and offboarding processes.

When an employee sees that honest feedback is not only expected but also encouraged, they are more likely to be more comfortable giving it. To create a culture of honest feedback, managers have to show employees that there will not be any kind of backlash from giving it.

Overall, incorporating the giving of honest feedback in every aspect of the job can be freeing to many people. This is especially true when they realize that their voice is not only heard but also appreciated and used to make changes.

How to Encourage Leaving Employees to Give Honest Feedback

Many employers wonder just how to encourage employees who are leaving to give honest feedback about why. The topic is sometimes difficult to bring up since you may or may not want to really hear what they have to say.

However, finding out the true reasons they are leaving as well as the experiences they had as an employee can help you build a better company. This is because you can only make better the things you are aware of that are weak.

To learn more about how to encourage leaving employees to give honest feedback, read on.

Take a Pause Before Getting Into the Feedback

In many cases, managers are typically blindsided when an employee turns in their resignation for many reasons. They may assume that the employee has been content in their position and may not know that there is a bigger problem.

When an employee comes to you to resign, it is important that you, as a manager, control your emotions if you want to get honest feedback. This means that instead of getting defensive, take what they are saying and reflect on it.

It is perfectly okay not to know how to react when an employee blindsides you with their letter of resignation. If they are in front of you at the time, you may be tempted to begin offering more incentives for them to say, or, worse, get defensive.

When you receive a resignation letter from an employee, whether they are sitting in front of you or not, take a pause before you ask for feedback. You can tell them that you would like to have a constructive conversation with them in a few days to learn more about what is next for them.

Keep in mind that you should give yourself a day or two to ensure that your feelings of resentment do not enter the conversation. This will also give you a chance to prepare what you would like to say and how you can ask for their honest feedback.

Schedule a Time to Discuss With Them Further

Scheduling an exit interview is the best way to encourage employees who are leaving to give honest feedback. Make sure that the meeting is at a convenient time for both you and the employee to give ample time for a conversation.

During the exit interview, you will want to keep your emotions in check to ensure that the interview does not turn south. It is important to remember that you are attempting to discover the reasons the employee is leaving and their honest feedback about the company as a whole.

In most cases, the decision to leave for an employee has more to do with their personal lives than it does with the workplace in general. Keep this in mind throughout your exit interview so that you can focus on keeping an open mind.

Overall, using the exit interview to encourage employees to leave honest feedback gives you time to develop questions that will lead in that direction. Create an environment where it seems like just a conversation between employees so that they are put at ease.

Turn the Lead Over to the Leaving Employee

Another way to encourage employees to leave honest feedback is to turn the lead of the conversation over to them. This means that while they will expect that you will dictate how the conversation goes, you can turn the table and let them do the talking.

To do this, you can start by asking them how and when they would like to tell others about their resignation. This will give them some control over not only the conversation but also help them to feel more comfortable.

Additionally, help them to feel at ease about giving honest feedback by letting them know that they can assist in making improvements to the company by doing so. Once you put it to them this way, they are more likely to let you know why they are leaving.

For the most part, people like to know that others are listening and that their thoughts and feelings are valid. By giving them control of the conversation, you can help them not only feel more comfortable but also learn more about why they are leaving in the first place.

Ask More Questions

During the conversation, if you get to a point where you don’t quite understand what they are saying, ask them further questions. This will ensure that you are getting a deeper understanding of where they are coming from.

Additionally, probing questions often help employees understand that you are wanting a more in-depth conversation and will typically give you more information. As with any conversation, it is important to listen to what they are saying but to also make sure you understand as well.

You must let them know, as you are asking more probing questions, that you are doing so to help better the company as a whole. That by answering questions such as these, they are helping you do just that.

Use Active and Reflective Listening Skills

One of the most important features of a conversation is to ensure that you are using active and reflective listening skills. These two types of listening will help you not just hear what the other person is saying but will show them that you care about the conversation.

Active listening is shown when you are facing and are focused on the person that you are talking to completely. This shows them that you are in the conversation and are not distracted by outside factors.

Reflective listening shows them that you are listening by being able to repeat back what they are saying in your own words. Doing so helps them to realize that you care about their feedback and value their thoughts.

A man explains his feedback with his hands in front of a laptop screen.
There are many benefits to receiving honest feedback from a leaving employee. 

Benefits of Leaving Employees Giving Honest Feedback

There are many benefits for the company when employees leave honest feedback when they have chosen to resign. Many of these benefits can be used to make improvements to the company as a whole.

Some benefits of receiving honest feedback from employees who are leaving the company include being able to use the feedback to initiate change. Typically, if one person feels a certain way about a company, there are likely others that do as well.

How Can You Put the Honest Feedback Given to Work for Your Company?

The bottom line when it comes to encouraging leaving employees to give honest feedback is that the entire company can benefit. It may mean that you need to make changes to the way the company is run or even put an ethics committee in place to ensure that things are done right overall.

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