How to Interpret Your Exit Survey Results

This article is intended to help admins and survey admins interpret aggregate Exit survey data and decrease rates of regrettable turnover.

In this article: 



As an automated survey, Exit surveys, similar to New Hire surveys, are always on and will continuously gather new responses as employees leave your organization over time. It's recommended to review Exit survey data regularly.

This article is intended to help admins and survey admins interpret aggregate Exit survey data and decrease rates of regrettable turnover.

As a smaller organization with relatively low turnover, this could mean that exit data is reviewed anytime an employee leaves.

For larger organizations or those with higher turnover, this could mean reviewing exit data monthly or quarterly. 

Learn more about Exit surveys and turnover:

Step 1: Understand the Overall Themes

Review Your Response Rate

Response rates for Exit surveys are typically lower than those for Engagement and other survey types. Around 40% is a common response rate for Exit surveys, although this rate can vary widely from organization to organization.

Exit survey results, including results from employees who voluntarily leave, provide critical insight into the employee experience and the effectiveness of retention efforts.

Learn how to improve your Exit survey's response rate.

Assess the Top Reasons Why Employees Leave

If you're using Quantum Workplace's recommended Exit survey or a similar version, departing employees are asked which factors influenced their decision to leave. 

This question helps you identify the largest barriers to employee retention, i.e. lack of career development, ineffective managers, not feeling valued, etc.

Understand Other Perceptions

Beyond understanding why employees leave, most Exit surveys are designed to assess other important topics like perceptions of managers, senior leaders, career development, and employee engagement. 

It's common for exiting employees to have less favorable results on many of the topics compared to current employees, but it's important to understand how exiting employees view these topics to uncover insights. The following are examples of this idea: 

  • If very few exiting employees have favorable perceptions about career development, this can challenge your Employee Value Proposition if learning and development are key promises; this evidence can create urgency to invest in L&D or warrant updating your EVP to better align with the employee experience
  • If employees hold unfavorable perceptions about manager effectiveness, this warrants further investigation, even if managers aren't listed as a top factor in turnover; Exit survey data can spotlight if manager coaching or development is needed to retain employees 

Look at Trends

Exit survey analytics will continue to be collected as terminating employees participate in your survey. 

It can be helpful to look at trends in the following ways: 

  • Month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter
    • Has voluntary turnover spiked in certain months/quarters in the year?
    • Have the self-reported factors of why employees leave, or their perceptions changed in the year?

Consider how trending data may coincide with other factors: 

  • Larger organizational changes, e.g. was there a spike in turnover after the announcement of major organizational changes?
  • External factors, e.g. did turnover decrease as unemployment rates increased in the country?
  • Seasonal shifts, e.g. if your industry has a busy season such as the tax season, do more employees leave before, during, or after the peak in activity 

Understanding trends that tend to repeat annually can help you adjust retention efforts or even hiring efforts accordingly.

Compare Groups

Different groups of employees may have different reasons for leaving, and this information can be critical to your retention efforts.

The following are a few valuable ways to explore your Exit survey data: 

  • Employee Performance
    • Why are top performers leaving the organization? Does this differ from non-top performers? To retain your best talent, it's critical to understand their experience and reasons for leaving
  • Key Roles or Functions
    • What roles are harder to recruit, more expensive to hire, or particularly important to your business success? Isolating costly turnover can help you strategize and prioritize your approach
  • Tenure
    • New hires often go through a honeymoon period where the excitement of a new job, learning opportunities, and desire to prove themselves drive their motivation; however, if the recruitment process doesn't provide a realistic preview or a helpful onboarding process, new hires may leave 
    • Understanding turnover at different tenure points can help focus efforts and solve the right problems 
  • Gender, Race/Ethnicity, or other Personal Demographics
    • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion continue to grow in importance for organizations; understanding why females leave compared to men or how under-represented groups feel on their way out of the organization provides essential data to your DE&I efforts

Connect this information to the turnover rate by these same demographics so you can understand the unique perceptions of groups with the highest turnover.

Step 2: Level Up Your Analysis

Connect Exit Survey Feedback to Other Employee Feedback

Each type of survey your organization conducts offers unique insights. Analyzing surveys throughout the employee lifecycle provides a comprehensive view of employee perceptions and experiences. 

Consider the following examples:

  • Consider a scenario in which an Exit survey highlights a lack of career development opportunities as the main reason for leaving. Furthermore, consider that career development opportunities have already surfaced as a key driver of engagement on the Engagement survey, meaning that this topic has a significant influence on employee engagement. When cross-analyzed, these findings underline career development's role in both engaging and retaining employees.

    Moreover, the Engagement surveys reveal that top performers have less favorable views of a survey question assessing career growth and development, when compared to more average performers, suggesting that they're more at risk of leaving. 
  • Imagine another scenario, consider a new hire taking a Candidate Experience survey to gather insights about their recruitment experience once they've accepted the job offer. The survey results indicate that the promise of career development opportunities was a key reason for the candidate accepting the job offer. In other words, employees join and enter your organization with high expectations for career growth and development based on the information shared during the recruitment process. 

    As the new hire completes their New Hire surveys, their results share that the job isn't quite what they had pictured and they are unclear about what growth opportunities exist in your organization. This signals a gap between expectation and reality, and that the employee's frustration or disappointment begins as early as the recruiting and onboarding stages. 

    The data suggests addressing career development is crucial for retaining top talent and meeting new hires' expectations. Start with pulse surveys or individual 1-on-1s to understand the types of development and growth opportunities your employees are looking for.