Losing a valuable employee can be a setback, and many managers are left wondering if they could have prevented it. Certainly there are cases where an employee sees a better opportunity elsewhere, and it would be disappointing to realize that those needs could have been fulfilled in his or her current employment. But in some situations the departing employee’s role in the organization, potential for advancement, compensation, or opinion of leadership/direction of the company have no relevance in the decision-making process. An employee may just desire a change of scenery, a new challenge, or a chance to take the skills he or she has learned and start a new business.

There are so many reasons an employee might move on that it’s up to managers to glean whatever information they can before allowing that person to walk out the door. If mistakes were made along the way, managers should want to investigate the truth and not shy away from criticism. Even if leadership style was part of the problem, it’s impossible to make improvements while remaining oblivious to the issues.

One way managers can learn from the situation is to perform exit interviews. In the article Perform Exit Interviews: Exit Interview Questions, Susan M. Heathfield of About.com provides a list of 26 different questions managers can use to help maximize the quality of their feedback:

1. Why have you decided to leave the company?

2. Have you shared your concerns with anyone in the company prior to deciding to leave?

3. Was a single event responsible for your decision to leave?

4. What does your new company offer that encouraged you to accept their offer and leave this company?

5. What do you value about the company?

6. What did you dislike about the company?

7. The quality of supervision is important to most people at work. Are you satisfied with the way you were supervised?

8. Is there anything we can do to improve our management style and skill?

9. What are your views about management and leadership, in general, in the company?

10. What did you like most about your job?

11. What did you dislike about your job? What would you change about your job?

12. Do you feel you had the resources and support necessary to accomplish your job? If not, what was missing?

13. We try to be an employee-oriented company in which employees experience positive morale and motivation. What is your experience of employee morale and motivation in the company?

14. Were your job responsibilities characterized correctly during the interview process and orientation?

15. Did you have clear goals and know what was expected of you in your job?

16. Did you receive adequate feedback about your performance day-to-day and in the performance development planning process?

17. Did you clearly understand and feel a part of the accomplishment of the company mission and goals?

18. Describe your experience of the company’s commitment to quality and customer service.

19. Did the management of the company care about and help you accomplish your personal and professional development and career goals?

20. What would you recommend to help us create a better workplace?

21. Do the policies and procedures of the company help to create a well-managed, consistent, and fair workplace in which expectations are clearly defined?

22. Describe the qualities and characteristics of the person who is most likely to succeed in this company.

23. What are the key qualities and skills we should seek in your replacement?

24. Do you have any recommendations regarding our compensation, benefits and other reward and recognition efforts?

25. What would make you consider working for this company again in the future? Would you recommend the company as a good place to work to your friends and family?

26. Can you offer any other comments that will enable us to understand why you are leaving, how we can improve, and what we can do to become a better company?

Heathfield also points out the importance of ending such meetings on a positive note, with positive energy. Who knows, the way a manager approaches the exit interview could leave the door open for an opportunity to work together again in the future. The information gathered in the exit interview should then be applied to help build a better workplace.