EXIT INTERVIEWS

Traditionally, and in my experience (before COVID-19), February is the time of year that many employees choose to resign. The three obvious reasons appear to be that they have waited to take annual leave in December / January, received an end-of-year bonus and made resolutions for the new year to change career plans.

It is key to any business to incorporate an exit procedure (including an exit interview) into company policy. The primary aim of an exit interview is organisational improvement. Positive exit interviews can be very beneficial in getting useful information about the business, improving culture, working conditions, systems and processes. Even management style and staff issues are addressed in an exit interview.

Employees exiting an organisation are no longer reluctant to talk about negative aspects of their job. They are happy to provide objective and honest feedback. The employee also feels they now have an opportunity to have a say, “clear the air” and leave with a positive feeling.

The person conducting the exit interview should be friendly and objective. An exit interview should not be seen as an opportunity to take out frustrations or blame the employee. It is in the company’s best interest to direct the interview in a positive manner. This will ensure that the employee leaves on a positive note so as not to bad mouth or jeopardise the company’s integrity. Disgruntled employees can be dangerous!

As soon as an employee resigns, the company should be thinking about hand-over, knowledge transfer, project completion and other areas where the employee has been involved. If the exit process is positive, it is very likely that the employee will collaborate and co-operate with the company. It is so easy for a manager to believe a resignation is a personal attack. Employees do leave because of their managers (and that is another discussion for another time) but making the transition as smooth as possible is ideal for all parties. There have been instances (I know of a few) of employees withdrawing a resignation because of the positive attitude of the manager during an exit process and even during an exit interview. A lot of the time, the employee that resigns is not always an employee the employer is keen to lose.

TIPS ON CONDUCTING POSITIVE EXIT INTERVIEWS

  • Best done face-to-face.
  • Let the employee do most of the talking.
  • Don’t become defensive.
  • Ask open questions that don’t just have yes/no responses.
  • Use an interview questionnaire and display professional interview skills – get an HR professional or person who is familiar with interviewing to conduct the exit interview.

QUESTIONS TO ASK IN AN EXIT INTERVIEW

  • What made you decide to leave?
  • What is your main reason for leaving?
  • Any other reasons?
  • Is there anything the company may have been able to do to prevent you from leaving?
  • How do you feel about the company?
  • What are the positives you can take from your employment here?
  • What are the negatives?
  • Would you have taken on extra responsibility in your role?
  • Was there any training or development that the company could have invested in for you?
  • What improvements do you think could be made?
  • Describe the company’s culture.
  • Do you have any comments on how your performance was managed?
  • What can the company do as a retention strategy so we do not to lose any more skills like yours?
  • Under different circumstances, would you work for us again?
  • Ask the employee where they are going and why they have chosen that company or option.
  • What are they giving you that we are not?
  • Discuss hand-over and knowledge transfer – would they be open to their successor contacting them for assistance?

Employees who have been dismissed, retrenched or retired may have a different attitude to co-operating with an exit process. A company’s exit procedure should make allowance for this.

Always treat employees with respect (however hostile the situation) and end the exit interview on a positive note, wishing them well, shaking hands and leaving as friends, if possible.

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