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Exit interviews
  • Exit interviews are used to determine why employees are leaving, to identify systemic problems, and to help reduce driver turnover.
  • Exit interviews need to be conducted by a neutral third party so that employees feel comfortable enough to share their experience.
  • Attempting to address high driver turnover through exit interviews is a good business strategy to identify and address the necessary changes within an organization and increase driver satisfaction.

“He was going to leave anyway.”

This is one of the most common lines used when a driver leaves a motor carrier. The problem is, did the carrier motivate the driver to leave? The key is to find out what happened. Exit interviewing may help determine what happened, and why it happened.

To try to reduce turnover, many motor carriers have a procedure in place that requires a driver, when giving notice, to talk to an owner or an operations, safety, or human resources manager. Often this person will try to talk the driver out of quitting by offering to address the driver’s problems. This is a good practice, but it is not an actual exit interview.

Find the problem (if there is one)

Exit interviews are nothing new to industry. Many companies sit down with employees that are leaving to determine the exact reason the employee has chosen to leave, and if it is part of a systemic problem.

An example of a systemic problem would be if 85% of the drivers leaving a motor carrier are leaving to get jobs that “get them home more often.” This would create a trend large enough to warrant a review to see if there is a way to change operations to get drivers home more.

Good exit interviews

A good exit interview begins by telling the driver that “anything said during this discussion will not be held against you.” If the driver believes that opening up will slam the rehire door, they will not have an open discussion.

Note: One big issue is that the exit interview needs to be conducted by a neutral third party. If the interview is being conducted by the supervisor that was the problem, in the driver’s opinion the interview may degrade into a “mudslinging” event, or the driver may not say anything at all.

Recruiting, safety, and human resources personnel are all good “neutral parties” that have a vested interest in solid exit interviewing; therefore, they are good candidates to conduct exit interviews.

After convincing the driver that the exit interview will not be held against them, explain that this is being done to try to make the company better by looking for ways to improve. Allow the discussion to be casual and “wander” over topics including all issues that may affect a driver. Maintenance, miles, pay, payroll, equipment, operations, dispatchers, time off, and general operations should all be discussed as a minimum. Sometime during the conversation ask directly, “If there was one thing that could be fixed to make you stay, what would it be?”

Do not take notes during the discussion. This will give the driver the idea that a “permanent record” is being created to be used against them in the future. After the conversation, write down the top reasons the driver is leaving (home more, better pay, family pressure or problems, problems with equipment, dispatch, maintenance, etc.). Remember to be brutally honest when recording the reason for leaving. The exit interview process will serve no purpose if the results are not accurate. Do not put down what the driver “really meant,” put down what the driver actually said.

Exit interview all drivers leaving the company, other than drivers that are being terminated (the company already knows why they are leaving). Don’t just interview the ones that will “say nice things” or are leaving “on friendly terms.”

Compile data and evaluate

After conducting a series of interviews, compile the reasons for leaving and see if there is a trend. Be aware, this may prove to be painful. Exit interviews, if done correctly, can put a very bright light on things that had been left in the dark. A carrier may have believed that drivers had been leaving for “better pay” at other carriers, but exit interviewing might turn up that drivers are leaving due to the frustration of constant breakdowns, which are reducing their pay checks.

Wait to see a trend. Do not exit interview two or three drivers and “multiply” it out. The purpose isn’t to react to an isolated incident; the purpose is to try to discover and correct systemic problems.

Finally, be prepared to act on what is discovered. Exit interviews will serve no purpose if the information generated is not used. If an interview has created a situation where the driver can be retained, follow up and make sure that the necessary changes were made and the driver is satisfied. If trending was found, share it with management and supervisory personnel and attempt to address the issue.

Some people might see exit interviews and the changes they may bring about as “coddling” drivers. However, with the present costs of recruitment and lost utilization due to the shortage of drivers, a little “coddling” can go a long way! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “there is nothing we can do, drivers leave.” Find out why they are leaving. Attempting to address the issues of turnover is not coddling; it’s good business.