How to use employee exit surveys effectively

Feedback from employee exit surveys can provide powerful insight into your company’s culture. No matter how excellent your culture is, people are eventually going to leave.

Hopefully, the exit is in both the best interest of the individual by getting them closer to their dream job, and the company, by opening space for new, passionate individuals. As people leave, they might just give you insight into how to keep others at the company.

Here we’ll explore how to review individual and aggregate exit survey results, and how to take action on both. Using an exit survey can also provide invaluable information for your in-person exit interviews. We’ve included some sample employee exit survey questions you can use as well.   

Reviewing individual employee exit survey results

When an employee voluntarily leaves, asking them to complete an exit survey as part of the offboarding process is important. Then, your HR team can review their feedback and determine if the feedback should be shared with others as well, for example, someone’s manager. In particular, you want to highlight any responses that run counter to what has been observed in other feedback (such as engagement results).

For example, if company results are usually high on access to career opportunities but an individual notes it as a reason for leaving, be sure to dig a little deeper in your exit interview.

The opposite is true as well – if someone leaving gives positive feedback on an experience that is often low scoring, this should be discussed. This might give you insight into a particular practice that could be adopted across the organization. Additionally, any neutral or unfavorable responses should be flagged for further discussion.

Reviewing aggregate employee exit survey results

Once you have a good number of responses in your exit survey, you’ll be able to get insights from the aggregate results. Keep in mind, depending on the platform you use you might be able to get deeper analytics based on how many responses you have. For example, Culture Amp includes driver analysis which requires 30 responses in order to be calculated.

When reviewing the aggregate results, look for answers to the following questions.

  • What was the overall experience of employees who exited?
  • What did we do well?
  • What did we do not so well?
  • What matters most to our people?
  • What can we focus on to increase retention in the future?

To make comparisons based on the overall experience of employees who have left, ask questions that match to those in your broader employee surveys. These are questions like:

  • I would recommend [my company] as a great place to work
  • For most of my time with [my company], I rarely thought about looking for a job at another company

You also might want to compare themes, for example, learning and development. If learning and development are particularly important to your organization, or perhaps shows up as a driver of engagement, it is likely a theme you’ll want to get feedback on even from exiting employees. When comparing exit survey results to engagement or organizational health results, it’s expected that these results will be lower, but you still want exiting employees to be advocates for your company and brand.


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Find your strengths and opportunities through exit survey feedback

As with reviewing any feedback, you want to take note of the positives before jumping into improvements. Within your exit survey, view the questions sorted by favorability to see what’s topping the list. Your exiting employees are going to be more unfavorable so these high scoring items are truly your strengths - celebrate them!

Another way to find your strengths is to include the free-text question:

“What are some things we’re doing really great here?”

Next, view your lowest favorable items. These are the things that aren’t going so well. Ask yourself how these themes match with what you’ve heard from other feedback sources (e.g., surveys, conversations with employees).

Another way to find your opportunities is to include the free-text question: “What are some things we’re doing not so great here?”

Taking action on your employee exit survey results

Now that you have a broad view of why people are leaving, you can choose a focus area. Look for your lowest scoring items, and if you have access to driver analysis, make sure to select a focus that has an impact. While some items may be low scoring, they might not be correlated with engagement or retention. For example, questions around compensation are often low scoring and referred to in exit interviews, however, compensation is very rarely a driver of retention.

Review responses to the question:

“Is there something we could have done to keep you?”

Once you’ve selected a theme based on your quantitative and qualitative data, take a look at data from your organizational health or engagement survey to see if there is a group that is doing well in the selected them. They may have learnings that you can share. Also, identify if there are any low performing outliers in your company as those groups should be prioritized when testing out new programs to avoid the turnover.

Remember, you're taking action with your current employees in mind. For example, if career opportunities are a focus area, you may want to consider creating a transparent leveling process or standardize how someone would move into a lateral role. As with acting on engagement survey results, get your employees involved in determining actions. Hold a focus group with a representative sample to further unpack that focus and generate ideas for action.

About Culture Amp

Culture Amp helps you make your company a better place to work. By making it easy to collect, understand and act on employee feedback, we enable HR leaders to make better decisions, demonstrate impact, and turn company culture into a competitive edge.

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