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Managing the exit process effectively

This research was undertaken to help employers better understand the exit process and how it can be utilised to build a better workplace.

The ability to retain top talent is vital to any employer’s success. While the focus during the recruitment process is often on finding and competing for the best people, it is also worth giving a thought to the exit process.

The insights gleaned from former staff can shed light on all aspects of the working environment, from the culture, systems and day-to-day processes, to problems with the company’s management style and underlying factors contributing to low retention rates.

Why professionals leave

The majority of professionals, at 40%, spend an average of three to four years in a role. The most common reason for leaving is no longer feeling challenged, which was cited by 33% of professionals, followed by problems with colleagues or the company culture, which was cited by 27% of professionals.

The average employee tenure was reflected in the responses from hiring managers, at three to four years. However, the responses differed when it came to the main reasons employers believed professionals had left their roles. A third of employers thought employees had left due to feeling underpaid, meaning they ranked salary as the second most common reason for leaving. In actual fact, the professionals ranked salary only fifth in terms of importance, behind no longer feeling challenged, problems with colleagues or the company culture, limited growth at the company and feeling undervalued.

How professionals approach resignation

When professionals were asked if they would tell a current employer they’re unhappy before searching for a new role, the split was roughly 50/50, with 52% saying that they would. The main reason for this was out of respect for the company, at 47%, followed by not wanting to burn any bridges, thinking there was a reasonable chance of a subsequent promotion and, lastly, being reluctant to go through the recruitment process.

However, once the search has begun, the majority of professionals, at 34%, only disclose the fact that they are looking when they have signed the new contract. On the employer’s side, the overwhelming majority encourage employees to come to them with a problem before searching for a new role, at 95%. Most also believe they can tell when an employee is about to resign, with 83% stating that there are always signs, such as lateness, increased sick days and negative attitudes towards their work or colleagues.

Counter offers and how to manage them

Once professionals have resigned, the results show that most, 62%, do not receive a counter offer. Of the 38% who had received a counter offer, a quarter agreed to stay.

Increased pay was cited as the number one reason employees would accept a counter offer, closely followed by improved career progression.


The results from hiring managers again reflected those of the professionals in that most would not present a counter offer. Of the 35% who have presented a counter offer, most were declined.

Employers tend to view resignations impartially, with the vast majority, at 92%, believing they present a good opportunity to add new talent to the business.

The exit interview and its value

Most professionals, at 67%, have been asked to give informal feedback, and the majority, at 63%, have also been asked to do a formal exit interview.

An overwhelming majority, at 79%, felt they could give honest and constructive feedback, and most also thought the exit process was useful to both themselves and the company.

When it came to the responses from hiring managers, most said that they conduct informal or formal exit processes at 89% and 74% respectively. Most also believed the departing employees are usually honest in their feedback, at 88%, and many believed it has been useful to both the departing employees and the company.

While 70% of hiring managers use the feedback to make improvements to the business, almost a quarter, a significant minority, just file the feedback away with the candidate’s resignation letter.

While critics may question the value of the exit interview, it is clearly evident from the statistics that the exit process can play an important role in an organisation’s overarching recruitment strategy and is vital to successful retention management in the long term. Departing employees have the freedom to speak without fear of losing their jobs, and, as the survey has found, most value the exit interview as an opportunity to give honest and constructive feedback.

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