You’ve implemented a hotline and case management solution and overall are getting the results you expected.  Same with policy management and even the learning management and courseware you rolled out is having a positive impact on company culture and behavior.  So how do you take it to the next level? The best next step in the evolution of your compliance program is inclusion of more relevant constituents that are typically ignored – ex-employees.  Many companies have a baseline exit interview, typically done by HR with questions like:

  • What could have done to retain you?

  • Why did you begin looking for a new job?

  • What ultimately led you to accept the new position?

  • Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well?

  • How would you describe the culture of our company?

  • Can you provide more information, such as specific examples?

These are all good questions and if answered directly and honestly, can offer some good data that can help you improve the company and increase employee retention, both good goals!

But what most companies miss is potentially far more impactful information – what is the hidden reason the employee is leaving?  In all too many cases, the “real” reason the employee is leaving is due to a specific or series of acts by management that should be addressed.  For example, the most common answers to why are you leaving were (in this order) when the exit interview is conducted with internal HR:

  1. Found a job closer to home / shorter commute

  2. Was offered more money / better benefits

  3. Position has better schedule / more hours

Interestingly, from this same sample group when offered an anonymous third party exit interview said (also in this order):

  1. Uninspiring or unhealthy work environment or company culture

  2. Poor management / abusive or discriminatory culture unchecked by senior management

  3. Bad manager / direct victim of harassment

  4. Disconnect with company’s values

  5. Seeing good employees leave

What a big disconnect!  And during the exit interview they were asked why they gave a different reason to HR on their internal exit interview, the top response (more then 50% of the time) was that they may need to use that job as a reference in the future and feared being black balled as a whistleblower.

What do these tea leaves tell us?  First, that data from internal exit interviews is largely unreliable, although well intentioned.  Companies may try to improve through information gained in exit interviews, but the data is not accurate largely due to issues of trust.  Without addressing the trust issue, the data will be suspect and any change management based on the exit survey results will be largely ineffective against the real underlying issues.  So how do we address the trust issue? First by having an anonymous third party conduct the interview. In this way there is no question as to the motivation of the interviewer as well as an assurance of anonymity.   This is especially true on voluntary resignations, not as much on involuntary or reductions in force.

We often tell our clients that you can not fix what you don’t know is broken!  And this is especially true when it comes to issues regarding company culture. Third party exit interviews will take you a long way into understanding the real reasons for employees leaving and when you fix those, you are well on your way to a more productive workforce and greater retention.

To learn more about employee exit interviews, visit

J Rollins is the co-founder and CEO of ETHIX360.  At ETHIX360, our goal is simple, to provide an affordable, flexible and comprehensive answer to employee communication and case management on issues related to corporate ethics, code of conduct, fraud, bribery and workplace violence.  To learn more about ETHIX360, please visit, or follow us on twitter @ethix360.