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Adam Grant says the ‘dumbest’ time to run exit interviews is when employees quit. Here’s when you should conduct them instead

January 24, 2023, 1:08 PM UTC
Adam Grant
The exit interview often comes too late for employers, according to Adam Grant.
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Good morning!

Adam Grant says the “dumbest” time to conduct an exit interview is when employees decide to leave. Don’t look at me; I’m just the messenger. 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Grant urged more leaders to better time the exit interview and prioritize its more proactive and effective siblings: entry interviews and stay interviews. Both processes play an integral role in retaining valued talent, pinpointing gaps in corporate culture, and reversing quiet quitting, especially when leaders ask the right questions.

“I’m seeing a lot of CEOs scramble and say, ‘Ok, we’ve got to do exit interviews to figure out from the people who actually left what we can do to keep the people we want to stay. I’m a big fan of exit interviews. Just one little issue: It is the dumbest time to run them,” said Grant, who believes such discussions should be ongoing from the time employees join the company. 

“Why would you wait until people have already committed to walk out the door to say, ‘If only I had a time machine, I would go back to the past to convince you to stay.’ What I would much rather see employers do are entry interviews and stay interviews.” he added.  

Though similar, entry and stay interviews strike two different tones and offer different value propositions to an employer. Entry interviews, which target new hires, consist of asking the same questions one would typically pose during exit interviews, but at the beginning of the employment relationship. They help employers learn what attracts employees to the company and offer comparative data for exit interviews. For an entry interview, Grant suggests employers start by asking the following four questions: Why are you here? What are you hoping to learn? What are some of the best projects you’ve worked on? Tell me about the worst boss you’ve ever had so we can try to emulate the good and avoid the bad. 

Alternatively, stay interviews target more tenured employees at the company. The objective is to learn how employees feel about the organization before it’s too late. Generally, stay interview questions inquire about personal satisfaction or dissatisfaction, career goals, and areas of concern. Some of the most illuminating questions employers can ask include: What would cause you to leave the company? What has been the defining highlight of your experience here? What have been the lowlights? What made you consider quitting and how do we make sure that doesn’t happen again? 

While these interviews are not a silver bullet for some inevitable turnover, they can increase engagement and productivity by letting employees know that leaders value their opinions and what they bring to the organization.

Amber Burton
amber.burton@fortune.com
@amberbburton

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