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Lead Coach Release

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An Exit Interview is Too Late to Improve!

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A few years ago, one of my hardest working direct reports came to say he was resigning early from a contract.

I was flabbergasted. Caught off guard, I attempted to understand his rationale for leaving his commitment.

In the following weeks, while he arranged travel plans and set about finishing up immediate projects, I tried multiple times, and in multiple ways, to get him to reconsider.

But it was too late.

So he finished well, leaving with a good reputation, albeit early. We conducted an exit interview, and he was gone.

Two things stand out here in this process;

First, when someone has decided to move on from an organisation, that process has usually taken weeks or months of reflective processing to verbalise the “leave” decision.

It’s too late to talk about staying when their feeling is to go.

Second, an exit interview is a “too late” discussion.

People are generally polite, and any ‘improvement feedback’ is surface at best, while an employee is already half-way out the door.

What makes you stay with the company or organisation you’re currently engaged with?

What keeps you coming to work?

Pay?
Social engagement?
Changing the world?
Fear of change?

Here’s another question: What would make you leave the company or organisation you’re currently engaged with?

What would make you jump ship?

Pay? Social engagement?
Changing the world?
Fear of nothing ever changing?

In today’s marketplace, 1 in 3 employees — a whopping 32% — believe they will look for, or move to, a new job in the next 12 months.

Which honestly means they’re looking today. Right now.

It is highly likely someone around you in your team is looking for a new role.

When they come to tell you about their upcoming transition, it will already be “too late.”

So start talking early with your team about staying with the team, instead of focusing on how to get someone who has mentally moved on to reconsider their choices.

Start talking early and often about what is already positive in your existing team.

Start talking early and often about making what is good even better for those you work with.

I find retention interviews much more productive for long-term growth than the age-old exit interview. Talk about expectations, culture, dynamics, and team work through the lens of ‘this is good, and we can do better too.’

One helpful question is to ask,
“What element of work, if slightly tweaked, would help you perform at a higher level?”

Recently, in surveying an architectural firm, we used this very question. Turns out an extra monitor screen was all it took for one employee. For an extra couple hundred dollars, this firm showed they listen, they care, and their employees matter.

A computer monitor is an easy win.

Don’t wait until people leave to talk about retention. And don’t make pay the driving factor for retention.

Build a positive team. Build a positive culture. Build a little bit better today.

The opportunity to grow, or a place for professional development within a role, is widely recognised as one of the greatest factors influencing workplace engagement today.


In 2018, 94% of employees surveyed by LinkedIn Learning indicated they would stay longer in their current role if their company invested in career development.

Astonishingly, only 32% of CEO’s responded affirmatively to KPMG regarding their willingness to invest in people development over tech investment when considering the company of the future.

Organisations sit within a huge opportunity to increase retention by simply helping people to grow.

Often, growth is tied to participating in a professional training course. A development track filled with training sessions, scenarios, and unbillable hours away from the office.

Leaders must learn to seize the growth opportunities given within existing situations — day-to-day work scenarios — to invite employees to step out and grow; to coach the hungry through a difficult situation; to point out specific “you-should-be-learning-this” lessons.

The most specific training course, with the most specific scenarios for your team, is probably right in front of you.