Exit Interviews Tell All

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Justin Spath - Also by this author

Every year, dealerships spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours recruiting. Newspaper advertisements, on-line job boards, outside recruiting firms, state job agencies, employee referrals and a myriad assortment of other methods are utilized to find and hire the best talent possible. Find the best people available, make them an offer and bring them onto your team. At that point you, as many employers do, believe the job is complete.

What you have failed to remember is every other dealership out there is looking to do the same thing. Every dealership wants to find the best people they can, even if that means taking them from your dealership. Therefore, your efforts cannot end once the person is hired. You must find ways to make sure your best employees and their skills stay with you. Retention is as equally important as recruitment in the development of the best team possible.

The first step in retaining your employees is to find out why they are leaving. The simplest way to do this is through the exit interview. For those unfamiliar with exit interviews, they are interviews conducted at the time of an employee’s separation from the company or sometime shortly thereafter. The main goal of the exit interview is to determine why the employee is leaving. The secondary goal is to find out what the employee liked and disliked about your dealership while they were with you. By speaking with the employee about their experience with the dealership, we can determine ways to improve our organizations.

The structure and timing of an exit interview varies greatly from company to company. The most common practice is to have a standardized questionnaire used by the manager on an employee’s last day or by telephone if the employee left without giving notice. It is recommended that all employees be given the exit interview, even the ones that have been terminated involuntarily. In those situations, it may be best to have someone other than the person who administered the termination conduct the exit interview.

The exit interview functions much the same as the employment interview does. It allows the manager to determine a person’s attitudes and how things affect them. The key difference, though, is that the employment interview gauges how an applicant will fit with the company and the exit interview determines how the company fit with the person. Exit interviews often reveal problems that management is not aware of because employees try not to “rock the boat.” Once the employee knows they are leaving or has already left they may reveal the problems that they were afraid to mention before, ranging from not enough vending machines to personality clashes between coworkers to illegal harassment.

While some problems may seem minor, all should be taken seriously because if they were big enough to make one person leave they are probably capable of driving someone else away. Once interviews are conducted, managers must review the answers to determine if there are any trends that should be addressed. For example, if several employees stated they did not feel safe walking to their vehicles late at night, it would be best for management to see that additional lighting is provided. If an employee leaves because they claim they were being harassed by another employee or customer, it is the manager’s responsibility to determine if the harassment occurred or is continuing and to put an end to it. By addressing concerns that have been presented, in a decisive and timely way, other employees will see that management is interested in addressing their needs.

Dealerships should request their human resources department prepare an exit interview questionnaire that all managers are required to use when an employee leaves that complies with your company’s current policies and practices. Exit interviews, while very useful, are a reactive method of dealing with employee turnover. As with almost all processes, a proactive approach will often yield better results. Dealerships without a dedicated human resources department need not worry; you can request a sample exit interview from Auto Dealer Monthly by emailing with a subject line of “exit interview.” The exit interview will be emailed to you in a pdf file.

Vol 2, Issue 12

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