The Exit Interview: The Secret to Staff Retention

March 4, 2016
Sharon Soliday, CCC-SLP
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One of the next books I’m working to publish has the working title Secret Sauce: Lessons Learned About Superior Cultures in Education - Best practices in recruiting, retaining, and saying good-bye. Our work across multiple states has given us incredible access to administrators, their staff, and the cultures they’ve created to ensure students and staff thrive. As in my previous book on best practices in special education, I want to share key lessons we've learned so team leaders, human resource specialists, and administrators can have a road map to make it their own.

In this post, I want to share an excerpt of ideas from the section on . . .

Saying Good-Bye

Staff will say they're leaving for the following reasons:

  • illness
  • childcare
  • family needs
  • retirement
  • early retirement
  • new baby
  • fatigued
  • new opportunity
  • partner secured another opportunity
  • new career entirely
  • medical needs
  • inadequate pay
  • need for benefits
  • no advancement opportunities

In reality, members of your staff say goodbye because they’re:

  • Retiring
  • Quitting

When I ask people in leadership positions why their staff choose to leave, nearly every administrator uses the language the individual has provided. When I ask about what they've done that may have contributed to the employee's decision to leave, I get a lot of blank stares. Why do many leaders in education think they have no control over someone’s job satisfaction? I argue that, frankly, we don’t bother to ask.

The book will go into more details (for example, Secret #1 - don’t put folks on the defensive, you won’t hear the truth) but for the benefit of this post, I encourage administrators to consider asking the following questions in an exit interview once someone has announced their decision to leave. I expect you’ll learn insights to better developing your own secret sauce to recruiting and retaining excellent people over time.

 Exit Interivew

The Exit Interview

  1. How could we improve your position for the next person?
  2. What supports would have been most helpful to you in your role?
  3. What should district leaders be thinking about when looking 5 years down the road?
  4. How did you know you were successful?
  5. Describe a leadership moment the district missed?
  6. Would you recommend this as a great place for a friend to work? Why?
  7. If you could change anything about your team experience, what would it have been?
  8. Were there any policies and procedures in place that made your job more difficult?
  9. Do you have any tips for us to help find your replacement?

You can develop your own secret sauce for team success. But the recipe ideas have to come from somewhere. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the opinions of someone with nothing to lose. This person has chosen to leave, but if you listen to the answers to these questions with an open mind, you just might be able to put things into place that will stop someone else from leaving.