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How to get the best feedback from your exit survey

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Top tips to get the best feedback from exit surveys

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Employees leave organisations every year. It’s an inevitability in every workplace, no matter the industry. Can you think of a person who has worked their entire career with one company? It is an extremely rare occurrence.

Yes, employee retention is important, but it’s simply a fact of life that some employees will leave your organisation. And that’s okay, as long as it’s handled correctly.

When an employee leaves an organisation, it’s essential to gather feedback and capture the reasons behind their decision to leave. This insight can enable organisations to make positive changes to reduce talent attrition.

A good way to capture feedback is to implement an exit survey as part of the offboarding process. Read on to find out why exit surveys are valuable and tips for making your exit surveys count.

What is an exit survey?

An exit survey is a questionnaire sent to employees as they leave a company. Exit surveys are designed to uncover why the employee has decided to leave and to gain insight into their experiences with your organisation.

The responses can paint a clear picture of how your company performs in different areas such as culture, leadership, and development.

Each organisation will typically standardise their exit survey so all data can be collated and analysed easily. They are sent to exiting employees by HR via email, or through a platform like Xref. 

Xref Exit Surveys enables HR to collect, measure, and analyse data around employee sentiment. Organisations can customise the HR-approved questionnaire template to ensure they are gathering feedback on areas that matter most to them.

Once the survey has been completed, the data is presented in a report so HR can easily visualise patterns and spot trends. Armed with data-driven insights, the business can implement positive change.

Exit surveys vs. exit interviews

Although used interchangeably, exit surveys are different from exit interviews. Exit surveys are completed online, whereas an exit interview is typically an in-person (or virtual) discussion. It is common for the HR department to conduct exit interviews with the departing employee and record their responses.

Exit surveys are arguably more productive than exit interviews because they are completed independently. This means there is less risk of unconscious bias, as the respondent cannot be swayed by the interviewer’s prompts. The more honest the survey responses are, the more valuable they are, and the richer the insights will be.

The importance of exit surveys

Conducting exit surveys is sometimes perceived as a box-ticking exercise; a human resources initiative that doesn’t yield results. In fact, the opposite is true. 

The benefits of conducting exit surveys:

Gain honest feedback

Surveying employees is valuable at all points of the employee lifecycle, but feedback from departing employees is particularly valuable. This is because they are more likely to be open with their opinions. The more honest the feedback, the more useful it can be.

Identify strengths and weaknesses

Feedback from exit surveys helps an organisation to understand what they do well, and what areas of the business need improvement. Negative feedback is still valuable as long as it’s constructive and may uncover some issues that cause friction among team members. Addressing such issues can help to prevent problems before they occur, thus leading to improved employee engagement and retention in future. 

Identify roadblocks in professional growth

Exit surveys can uncover roadblocks in career development. For example, employees may not see a path for growth at your company so are forced to look elsewhere. Addressing this can improve work culture, reduce attrition and open the door for future employees to thrive at your organisation.

Show respect

Asking for feedback from employees as they walk out of the door shows them you care about their opinion. This leaves a positive lasting impression. After all, word of mouth is powerful and you want ex-employees to have good things to say about your business.

Nurture potential boomerang employees

Xref Exit Surveys give departing employees the option to ‘opt-in’ to being contacted about future opportunities at your company. This creates a talent pool of happy, skilled professionals who would “boomerang” back if the right opportunity presented itself. 

Boomerang employees (people who leave a company but return at a later date) are worth their weight in gold when it comes to the knowledge they bring back to a company. Hiring boomerang employees also reduces recruitment time and spend.

Identify brand advocates and referees

Exit surveys are a good way to identify employees who can be advocates for your organisation, even after their tenure has ended. Brand advocates share positive sentiments about your organisation and are more likely to refer talented peers in their network. By identifying such people, you can build an alumni network (more on this later).

What to ask in an exit survey

Now that we know the benefits of exit surveys – and why they’re more powerful than exit interviews – it’s time to craft the questions to put into an exit survey.

There is a temptation to ask as many questions as possible and touch on every aspect of the employee experience, but this isn’t necessary as it may overwhelm survey respondents and could affect the survey response rate. Instead, identify the topics that are relevant to your business such as workplace culture, leadership, and diversity and inclusion, and ask questions that speak to those different areas.

An exit survey should have 6-10 questions and take 5-10 minutes to complete.

Below are examples of exit survey questions used in Xref Exit Surveys. For each, the respondent is asked to rate how well they agree with the statement on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree”) and are given the option to provide additional comments.

To measure equality, diversity and inclusion:

Q: I felt informed about the measures [company] was taking to improve diversity and inclusion.

To measure workplace culture:

Q: [Company] is committed to improving the culture within the organisation.

To measure leadership:

Q: My relationship with my manager was good.

To measure health and wellbeing:

Q: [Company] demonstrates care and support for employees’ mental wellbeing.

To measure career development and training 

Q: I was adequately trained, equipped, and prepared to effectively perform my role

To measure performance management processes:

Q: I have provided feedback to succeed in my role.

To measure remuneration satisfaction:

Q: I was happy with my salary at [Company].

HR professionals can use the survey template in Xref Exit Surveys, and customise it how they see fit.

What can you do with exit survey findings?

The responses from an exit survey can provide a roadmap for improving your organisational metrics. However, gathering responses is only worthwhile if you act on the feedback.

With exit survey findings you can:

Benchmark data over time

The more exit surveys that are completed, the more useful, real-time data you will collect. You can then start to benchmark data and look at different variables, such as leadership, a change initiative, culture and employee benefits.

Attract top talent

Exit survey responses can help you to understand what employees like and dislike about your company. You can then use this data-backed insight to make changes with the goal of attracting top talent.

Another way to attract talent using Xref Exit Surveys is to ask respondents to give you an employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). This is a popular feedback mechanism to understand employee satisfaction and sentiment. It typically asks:

“On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being “extremely unlikely” and 10 being “extremely likely”), how likely are you to recommend [company name] to your friends, family or network as a place to work?”

You can then use an eNPS score as an employer brand tool to appeal to potential candidates.

Xref Exit Surveys automatically collates the data collected from employees and displays it in the Insights tab. Insights displayed include an eNPS and metrics showing how different aspects of the organisation perform and are perceived. 

How to get the most out of your exit surveys

Exit surveys are only valuable if they are created and distributed with care. To make the most out of your exit surveys, follow the below tips.

  • Explain the purpose of the survey: Convey the purpose of the exit survey: why it’s important, what’s in it for the departing employee (the chance to give feedback and make a real change), where their responses will be stored, and which team members will have access to them.
  • Encourage honesty and stress confidentiality: Departing employees won’t tell you how they feel if they don’t trust that their answers will remain confidential.
  • Give a clear timeframe for completion: Allow the departing employees adequate time to complete the survey, and send them gentle reminders. Xref recommends sending an exit survey in the final week of employment.
  • Utilise software: Don’t rely on written responses or memory. Leverage the power of technology like Xref to accurately collect and store responses which can be measured and analysed over time.
  • Keep in touch with valued employees: Create a talent pool of potential candidates who have recently shown interest in joining your organisation. Xref’s ‘opt-in’ feature makes it easy to add talent to your database and keep track of job titles, skills, and core competencies. You can nurture the pool of talent so that when you have a new role, you have quality talent at your fingertips.
  • Embed exit surveys in your exiting process: Having a process for learning from data and insights is key to improving retention.


Employee exit surveys are incredibly valuable tools for all businesses in all industries. They can indicate organisational health and, due to their online nature, are more reliable than exit interviews.

When you next have an employee resign, don’t let them walk straight out of the door. Have a process in place to capture some truthful, last-minute feedback that can help you to address attrition now and in the future. 

A platform like Xref automates and simplifies the exit survey process. Xref Exit Surveys are sent to departing employees and are completed independently, with minimal input from HR, saving precious time and resources.

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