Breaking up is never easy to do – especially when it’s a professional relationship. Yet understanding the reasons why employees resign is one of the most valuable tools in an organisation’s arsenal. Here are three reasons why a good exit interview is worth its weight in gold.

Local and international headlines have seen their share of high-profile resignations in recent months. From celebrities like South African radio personality Bonang Matheba, who left Metro FM, to MPs Mcebisi Jonas and Tina Joemat-Petersson. Further afield, the corporate world saw four Skye Bank executive directors and Kenya Airlines’ Head of Marketing resigning.

 Breaking up can be hard to do – which is why the vast majority of top employers take the time to understand resignations. “Employee exits can be an important strategic tool that many organisations overlook,” says Billy Elliott, Country Manager: South Africa for the Top Employers Institute.

The institute, which recognises excellence in the conditions employers create for their people globally, helps organisations stay on top of current HR best practices. Its research has revealed that in South Africa, 91% of certified top employers have a formally defined channel in place whereby HR officers conduct exit interviews with all employees and an additional 10% have a formal channel in place using a specialist external party to conduct a more in-depth qualitative exit interview.

“As the quote from Michelle Ventor goes: ‘People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you’ll know what to do.’” This may be hard to do because it can be difficult to face uncomfortable truths, believes Elliott. But if a company loses good talent, it can be costly not to understand the reasons.

With this in mind, says Elliott, there are three key reasons why an exit interview is worth its weight in gold. 

1. A rare opportunity for free and honest feedback

“In today’s knowledge economy, skilled employees are the asset that drives organisational success. Thus companies must learn from them—why they stay, why they leave, and how the organization needs to change. A thoughtful exit interview process can create a constant flow of feedback on all three fronts,” argue Everett Spain and Boris Groysberg in the Harvard Business Review.

“Exit management should be seen as an area for growth and learning – a rare opportunity for a company to get free and honest insight,” adds Elliott. “If there is a pattern in the reasons for employees leaving, it can be time for something to give.