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Exit surveys: Leverage this retention strategy to gain insights into your workforce


Losing key employees is a constant challenge organizations face. Voluntary turnover can be expected in the employee lifecycle due to a lack of growth opportunities or a toxic manager.

The real problem arises when employees depart without sharing insights that could have been used to create positive changes. Without understanding why workers leave, organizations risk a recurring cycle of employee attrition. 

Many businesses have started using exit surveys to learn more about the reasons for employee turnover. This employee retention strategy can help you discover actionable insights about your workforce, leading to better employee engagement and retention.

In this article, you’ll learn what an employee exit survey is, why it matters, exit survey best practices, and how companies use this strategy to stay on top of emerging talent retention trends

You’ll also understand how to combine different tests with exit surveys to improve the onboarding process, validate hiring decisions, and identify skills gaps

What is an exit survey?

An exit survey is a targeted employee feedback collection tool that can help you gain valuable insights from exiting employees. These surveys use a structured questionnaire format, systematically collecting quantitative and qualitative data about experiences, motivations, and perceptions during their time with the company.

Employee exit surveys help organizations gain an understanding of the factors influencing a person’s decision to leave, paving the way for improved employee experiences for current employees and future employees.

The difference between “exit survey” vs. “exit interview”

the difference between exit survey vs exit interview graphic

Exit surveys and exit interviews are both important human resource tools for understanding employee departure. Although they differ slightly in their approach and outcomes, you can leverage both to improve the employee offboarding process.

Employee exit surveys use a structured format, combining close-ended and open-ended questions to gather data about an employee’s decision to leave. 

Offboarding surveys are often completed electronically. They are anonymous and confidential, which encourages employees to give more honest feedback. The data collected from employee exit survey questions can be analyzed and used to provide actionable recommendations for organizational improvements.

In comparison, employee exit interviews take a more conversational approach during an in-person one on one meeting between a departing employee and an HR representative or manager.

Exit interview questions provide an opportunity for real-time clarification and deeper exploration of responses, fostering a more personal connection. That enables an open-ended conversation that focuses on assessing personal opinions.

This direct approach might help uncover important insights, but employees often feel reluctant to share constructive feedback directly. In addition, the exit interview process requires more time and resources, which is why they may not be suitable for smaller organizations.

The goals of an exit survey

An exit survey is a powerful HR tool that can help you discover how employees perceive your organization. 

Its goal is to:

  • Uncover HR issues – were there any toxic traits in the organization’s culture that you weren’t aware of?

  • Understand employee experiences and perceptions – was the work environment as welcoming as you thought it was?

  • Understand the effectiveness of management – was the management effective in encouraging teamwork? Did they distribute the workload fairly among team members?

  • Learn about market benchmarks and competitiveness – are competitors in the industry offering better wages, benefits, or perks?

  • Gather innovative insights – did the departing employee have any complaints about the company’s processes that are fixable?

Why are exit surveys important?

Departing employees may be more open to providing honest upward feedback than those still in their jobs because they don’t fear the repercussions. 

That’s why exit surveys help you find potential issues, align employee expectations and experiences with company goals, and support a culture of improvement.

Here are more details on why exit surveys are important:

1. Uncover hidden issues

Exit surveys can bring to light factors such as excessive workloads, management concerns, or cultural misalignments. 

They can also help identify systemic problems within the HR framework that contribute to employee turnover. For example, the results can uncover a common theme of delayed responses to employee concerns. This points to a problem in HR’s communication and issue resolution procedures.

As a response, a company could improve HR training to support responsiveness and problem-solving, introduce regular check-ins, and implement a streamlined communication system. 

2. Keep track of specific company goals

Exit surveys can help you to understand how employees view current company objectives and ensure their experience aligns with its goals.

In addition, the questionnaires enable you to compare the organization against industry standards and estimate competitiveness. That way, you can see whether your company needs to adjust goals or focus on developing certain aspects of your business.

Exit surveys help you understand how external factors, such as market trends, impact talent acquisition and employee retention rates. That includes talent supply and demand, employee compensation and benefits expectations, and remote work policies.

3. Improve the employee experience

Exit surveys can help you discover specific pain points and challenges departing employees face. This practice sheds light on their view of workplace culture, growth opportunities, and employee work-life balance.

Even if a departing employee had a negative experience with your company, they may feel inclined to contribute to help the colleagues they’re leaving behind.

For example, a departing employee may know about a colleague suffering from burnout because of workload-related issues. They point out those issues during the exit questionnaire, hoping to help their coworker. Doing this can improve the working situation and reduce employee attrition rates in the future.

4. Support a culture of continuous improvement

Exit surveys can help create a commitment to ongoing improvement in company practices and policies. These exit questionnaires enable you to tap into the departing employee’s perspectives for fresh, innovative ideas. Workers often feel unheard, so let them voice their thoughts.

However, you need to act on feedback to show employees you value their input, even when an employee leaves the company. That can help you improve employee retention and boost company performance.

5. Improve the relationship with a departing employee

Sometimes, employees leave because they don’t feel heard or valued. Exit surveys give them a chance to share their perspectives, helping them feel like their opinions matter. This opportunity improves their departure experience, potentially changing their view of the organization.

As a result, this experience can lead to more positive recommendations and a stronger corporate reputation.

6. Understand the effectiveness of management

Using exit surveys helps you evaluate the impact of leadership styles on employee morale and engagement. In addition, you can leverage this strategy to identify areas where management practices can be refined to improve employee satisfaction.

For example, exit questionnaires could reveal a consistent decline in morale among employees reporting to a particular manager. Comments indicate a perceived lack of support, minimal recognition, and a leadership communication gap.

HR can use this data to implement a personalized coaching program for the manager, helping them address specific concerns from exit interviews. This proactive approach to management refinement results in higher employee satisfaction.

The benefits of employee exit surveys

Losing an employee is tough, but exit surveys can help you benefit from these events. 

They are a valuable tool for companies and HR professionals to successfully collect valuable data that can be turned into actionable strategies for improving organizational success.

Here are the main benefits of employee exit surveys:

1. Understanding turnover causes

Exit surveys are an excellent way to collect valuable information from departing employees because they are straightforward. That makes it easy for employees to share insights on their schedules while remaining anonymous.

Understanding why employees leave enables targeted improvements that directly contribute to higher retention rates.

When an organization proactively addresses issues shared by departing employees, it creates an environment that prevents similar issues from driving future employee turnover rates.

2. Boosts engagement

The most important drivers of employee engagement are a sense of purpose, a caring manager, opportunities for career growth, and good company culture. Exit surveys can help with each item, boosting employee engagement.

An exit questionnaire uncovers the departing employee’s sense of purpose within the organization, understanding whether their roles aligned with personal and professional goals. 

Organizations can also use these insights to understand how employees perceive their growth opportunities. That way, a company can tailor professional development plans or organize employee coaching to provide a clear path for career advancement.

3. Improves corporate reputation

Addressing concerns proactively through exit surveys reduces the likelihood of employees resorting to negative online reviews post-departure. Organizations can mitigate the risk of damaging online reputations by demonstrating a commitment to resolving issues.

Bad online reviews on sites like Glassdoor can significantly impact your hiring process. In fact, one in three people have turned down a job because of a negative online review.

According to the same survey, 53.7% of Americans report leaving one or two-star reviews about their former employers, while only 5.7% report giving a 5-star review. That’s why it is crucial to keep your employees in good graces to protect your corporate reputation. An exit survey can help you with that.

Authenticity in the survey process ensures departing employees perceive the effort as genuine rather than a mere attempt to salvage the company’s reputation. If an employee hasn’t felt valued throughout their tenure at a company, focusing too hard on the offboarding process can only leave them with a sour taste.

It’s a good idea to inform employees during onboarding that exit interviews and surveys are standard practices for resigning employees. That way, it doesn’t feel desperate if they eventually decide to leave.

Exit surveys contribute to a positive parting experience, increasing the likelihood of departing employees becoming boomerang employees

4. Improves visibility into your processes

Business owners are often unaware of crucial internal practices that directly impact employee satisfaction and voluntary turnover. Exit surveys shed light on these blind spots and offer vital insights into processes that may go unnoticed.

Employees can use exit surveys to express concerns like workload and potential burnout. Recognizing patterns in these responses enables business owners to address workload-related challenges contributing to turnover.

Additionally, employee exit surveys can uncover problems in managerial effectiveness, leadership styles, time-off policies, growth opportunities, and other practices that are important to employees.

8 best practices for leveraging exit questionnaires to retain your best performers

Turnover is a normal part of the employee journey. 

However, departing employees offer a goldmine of useful information you can use to improve your organization and hold on to other top talent for longer.

Here’s how you can leverage exit surveys to listen to departing employees.

Summary of how to leverage exit surveys to your advantage

Best practice

How to use exit surveys

1. Identify skills gaps

Use exit surveys to assess perceived skill sets and identify skills gaps. 

Develop training programs to address them.

2. Validate hiring decisions

Design specific exit survey questions about job description and role alignment. 

Identify mismatches and refine hiring processes.

3. Improve the onboarding process

Create specific exit survey questions to analyze information clarity, training effectiveness, and received support during onboarding. 

Introduce improvements and monitor progress.

4. Make exit surveys a part of employee offboarding

Ensure privacy, explain the importance, and use collected feedback for ongoing organizational improvements.

5. Focus on the right questions

Craft concise, high-priority questions, ensuring the survey lasts less than 10 minutes. 

Prioritize questions like culture alignment and support mechanisms.

6. Cover a variety of topics

Expand beyond standard exit questions.

Include topics like development, support, rewards, workload, sense of belonging, and likelihood to rejoin.

7. Stay positive and grateful

End the survey on a positive note, thanking the departing employee for insights. 

Acknowledge contributions and express best wishes for their future endeavors.

8. Address the issues quickly

Act promptly on insights from exit surveys. 

Demonstrate a commitment to addressing concerns and fostering a positive work culture for long-term employee loyalty.

1. Identify skills gaps

Addressing skills gaps is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. When employees don’t have the necessary skills for their role, it can make them feel frustrated and unproductive. 

Interestingly, 68% of employees believe they are overqualified for their roles.[1] As a result, they may not feel challenged and stimulated, causing them to become disengaged.

Although employees feel overqualified, they aren’t given the opportunities to learn new skills to advance. Unfortunately, 78% of employees feel like they lack the skills to advance their careers, which leads them to lose motivation or increase the chances of experiencing burnout. 

By completing exit surveys, employees share insights about perceived skill sets and development opportunities. This feedback helps HR to refine the skills-based hiring process and address skills gaps by organizing employee training programs. For example, an exit interview survey could reveal a common theme about ineffective communication channels within a team. The HR department could use a Communication test to analyze skills gaps. This helps assess current communication skills between employees, uncovering the potential for improvement.

With the information from an exit survey and insights from the skills gap analysis, the company can create targeted communication training, which helps improve team collaboration, clarity in conveying ideas, and active listening.

2. Validate hiring decisions

If employees leave because the skills listed in the job posting don’t align with their responsibilities, it suggests a potential gap in the hiring process. Exit survey data can be used to assess whether the skills assessed during hiring were truly relevant to the employee’s day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

For example, imagine a tech company with a high employee turnover in software engineering positions. Departing employees express frustration at being assessed on specific technical skills during the hiring process, only to find a fraction of their day-to-day responsibilities focusing on those particular programming languages and frameworks.

After receiving this feedback, the HR team can revisit the Software Engineering skill assessment to make it more relevant to the tools and technologies used in the everyday job.

Here’s how you can use exit surveys to refine your hiring plan and better understand the skills required for specific roles:

  • Design specific exit survey questions about job postings and role alignment

  • Identify patterns indicating a mismatch between assessed skills and job responsibilities

  • Compare exit survey results with job descriptions to find discrepancies

3. Improve the onboarding process

An employee departing shortly after onboarding often signals potential issues in the hiring and onboarding process. A strong onboarding program could improve employee retention by 82%.[2] 

Exit surveys provide valuable insights into whether employees felt adequately prepared for their roles during the onboarding process. They can be used to refine the onboarding best practices and ensure that new hires are set up for success.

For example, exit surveys in a financial institution could reveal challenges for departing employees to grasp the complexity of internal processes and lack of clarity during the onboarding period. 

In response, the HR and training teams can introduce comprehensive onboarding manuals, interactive workshops, and mentorship programs to guide new hires through intricate financial procedures. This adjustment helps them understand the critical processes, contributing to a decrease in early turnover within the finance department.

Here’s how you can use exit surveys to improve the onboarding process:

  • Create specific exit survey questions about the success of the onboarding process

  • Ask about clarity of information, training effectiveness, and received support and feedback

  • Identify recurring issues in employee onboarding and address them

  • Monitor progress in answers to these questions after introducing changes

4. Make exit surveys a standard part of employee offboarding

A standard employee offboarding process includes:

  • Conducting an exit interview

  • Collecting company assets

  • Facilitating knowledge transfer

  • Ensuring a smooth transition for the departing employee

Making exit surveys a regular part of the offboarding process can help improve consistency and provide a real-time feedback loop for organizations to enhance the offboarding experiences.

Employee exit surveys bring a standardized approach to collecting upward feedback across all departures. This minimizes oversights and approves efficiency, enabling HRs to quickly identify and address employee concerns.

Knowing that their insights are valued and actively contributing to the organization’s improvement can leave a lasting positive impression on employees. 

But, to ensure honest and open feedback, you need to make exit surveys private. Explain that whatever they say won’t affect future references or career opportunities.

5. Focus on the right questions and keep the survey short

You should focus on asking the right questions and keeping the exit survey short. 

Survey fatigue is real; the longer your questionnaire is, the higher the chance that the responder skips a question or becomes disengaged. Employees often skip over longer surveys. That’s why you need to keep it under 10 minutes and focus on high-priority questions.

Think about the questions that are most important to you. For example: “Did you feel aligned with our culture?” or “How could we have supported you to continue working here?” are questions that can give you great insights without being complicated. 

Focusing on high-priority inquiries and a straightforward survey encourages participation and guarantees that the feedback is meaningful and actionable.

6. Cover a variety of topics

You should ask questions about various topics to gain the most insights and benefits from your exit surveys. Go beyond the typical “Why are you leaving?” questions to get a nuanced understanding of an employee’s departure.

You should cover topics like:

  • Opportunities for development

  • Feelings of support

  • Satisfaction with the reward system

  • Adequacy of workload

  • Sense of belonging

  • Likelihood to rejoin

In addition, you should include open-ended questions that give employees an opportunity to expand their views beyond the simple yes or no answers. This approach enables more quality metrics, providing a foundation for targeted organizational improvements.

7. Stay positive and grateful

Voluntary employee turnover is natural, and you shouldn’t take it personally. Instead, you need to ensure the survey is positive and thank the employee for their time and contributions. 

If you are bitter, it creates a negative offboarding experience and affects your corporate reputation. Here are two examples of how you can sign off the exit survey to maintain goodwill with the departing employee:

“Thank you for taking the time to share your insights with us. Your contributions during your time here have been invaluable, and we appreciate your willingness to provide feedback. As we bid farewell, we genuinely wish you success in your future endeavors. 

“Your thoughts will play a vital role in our continuous efforts to improve the employee experience. Best wishes for the future, and thank you for being a part of our journey.”

8. Respond to change quickly

Employees thrive in environments where their opinions actively shape positive change. Recognizing the significance of quick responsiveness to feedback is crucial, and 90% of employees want to stay with a company that takes feedback seriously and acts upon it.

When you receive valuable insights from exit surveys, you shouldn’t put them on the back burner. It’s crucial to act on this feedback and change things as soon as possible.

Acting quickly to drive positive change helps improve employee recognition, which contributes to a positive workplace culture and fosters long-term employee loyalty.

Exit survey questions: 21 examples for your exit survey template

Whether you’re designing an exit questionnaire from scratch or only seeking specific questions to enhance your existing exit survey, a strategic approach ensures you gather actionable data. 

Below, you can find a list of example exit survey questions, categorized by key focus areas, to aid in constructing a comprehensive exit survey template tailored to your organization’s needs.

Focus area



- Did you feel adequately supported in your professional development during your time here?

- Were there specific skills or knowledge areas you wished to develop that were not addressed?

- How would you rate the availability of growth opportunities within the organization?


- Did you receive sufficient guidance and mentorship during your tenure?

- Were your concerns and feedback addressed in a timely and satisfactory manner?

- To what extent did you feel supported by your immediate team and management?


- Were you satisfied with the overall compensation and employee benefits?

- Were your contributions adequately recognized and rewarded?

- How would you rate the alignment between your performance and the rewards received?


- Was the workload manageable and balanced during your time here?

- Were expectations regarding workload and project deliverables communicated clearly?

- What improvements can be made to achieve a better work-life balance?

Sense of belonging

- To what extent did you feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie within your team?

- Were there team-building opportunities?

- How would you rate the inclusivity and diversity training initiatives within the organization?

Likelihood to rejoin

- Considering your experience, how likely are you to consider rejoining the company in the future?

- What factors would influence your decision to rejoin the company?

- How could the organization attract former employees to return?


- Were your initial expectations and job responsibilities aligned with your actual experience?

- How would you rate the clarity and transparency of communication regarding job expectations?

- Were there aspects of the role that deviated significantly from what you anticipated?

3 examples of companies succeeding with offboarding surveys as a talent retention strategy

Some companies have introduced offboarding surveys to help understand the reasons behind the departure and fortify their talent retention efforts. 

These success stories showcase how listening to departing employee voices can pave the way for lasting employee loyalty and organizational growth.

The summary 




The company leverages exit surveys to discover common employee complaints and tailor a strategy to increase job satisfaction, retention rates, and overall employee experience during rapid workforce expansion.

Boehringer Ingelheim

The company uses an innovative exit survey platform that streamlines the questionnaire process and improves data analytics. 

Cancer Council Victoria

The organization enhances employee engagement and satisfaction by actively listening to its workforce through strategic exit surveys and feedback mechanisms.


When Zillow acquired its closest competitor, its workforce quickly grew from 800 to 3,000 employees. Although the employees were somewhat engaged, this big change reduced employees’ intent to stay with the company.

The organization started learning and optimizing the employee journey through multiple feedback and survey tools, including the exit questionnaire. The results from exit surveys and other feedback sources uncovered that employees wanted more opportunities for career development.

The company introduced a comprehensive leadership playbook that informed managers of the needs of their employees and offered guidance on how to fulfill those needs. 

This strategy helped the company improve job satisfaction and retention, significantly boosting the overall employee experience – all thanks to insights gathered from exit surveys and other feedback channels.

Boehringer Ingelheim

Boehringer Ingelheim, a German pharmaceutical company with more than 50,000 employees, felt its exit survey strategy was inefficient and disconnected from offboarding processes. That’s why the organization created a platform to improve the business processes and the employee experience.

The platform simplified creating and responding to exit surveys. It introduced real-time data analytics and insights, enabling HRs to quickly gather quality information, identify issues, and unify business processes.

This had multiple benefits, including:

  • Higher exit survey response rates

  • More meaningful insights on employee issues and business operations

  • A structured approach that helped the HR department

  • Better control and visibility of the information

  • Reduced dependence on outside service providers

Cancer Council Victoria

Cancer Council Victoria, a Melbourne-based non-profit organization, understands the importance of listening to its employees, which has helped to keep them engaged while working remotely.

The organization uses feedback strategies, and leverages exit questionnaires to assess how its employees felt about their roles. This helps the company make data-driven decisions on how to improve everyday operations.

The company’s leadership made a concerted effort to approach every employee’s circumstances with kindness – even when they were leaving. This unwavering support toward its employees, former and current alike, granted the organization a pristine corporate reputation.

According to recent employee engagement surveys, 84% of employees felt satisfied with their job.[3] So, leveraging exit surveys and other feedback channels has helped increase employee engagement, retention, and cross-divisional operation. 

Use exit surveys to retain talent 

Exit surveys are crucial HR tools for decoding employee departures and refining talent retention. Companies can leverage exit surveys to boost engagement, improve retention, uncover hidden issues, and preserve corporate reputation.

The best way to use employee exit surveys is to make them short, anonymous, positive, and focus on the right questions. You should act quickly on gained insights to show employees their inputs are heard and valued.

You can also combine exit surveys with skills-based hiring to find candidates who are a better cultural add to your company.

If you want to try to convince an employee to stay with a company, you should read our article about stay interviews and their importance.


  1. “State of the American Workplace”. (2017). Gallup. Retrieved December 7, 2023. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx 

  2. Laurano, Madeline. (August 2015). “The True Cost of a Bad Hire”. Brandon Hall Group. Retrieved December 7, 2023. https://b2b-assets.glassdoor.com/the-true-cost-of-a-bad-hire.pdf 

  3. “Employee satisfaction survey: Thriving despite the world’s longest lockdowns”. Xref. Retrieved December 7, 2023. https://www.xref.com/customer-stories/cancer-council-victoria-achieves-a-lockdown-lift-up


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