Management July 5, 2012 Last updated September 18th, 2018 684 Reads share

Want To Have A More Appealing Exit Interview? Read This!

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When an employee separates with a company, whether voluntarily or not, it’s important to have several procedures in place that enable the employer to conduct a meaningful exit interview.

Employer Interests

Let’s first focus on company interests.  In many organizations there are employment laws that govern certain aspects of the separation, for instance providing the employee his last paycheck, unused vacation, extension of health benefits, to name a few, at the exit interview if the separation is involuntary.  The company may also have had a non-disclosure and/or non-compete policy that needs to be reviewed prior to separation.  Depending on the position the employee is leaving it may be necessary to return building or vehicle keys, change internet and computer security access codes, and return cellular or smart phones and other computer equipment.

Employee Interests

We can’t cover all possible instances here so let’s go with some of the more essential factors.  Whether or not it is a voluntary or involuntary separation it’s important to have a conversation with your employee about his working conditions, including supervisor, co-worker, subordinate, and customer relationships.  If appropriate, ask about improper or questionable management practices, a supervisor’s management skills, and how effectively the company operates.

During this discussion engage the employee about his opinions and attitudes about the company, and the strengths and weaknesses of your company’s product or services.  The employee has a perspective about the company’s mission, vision, goals, compensation strategy, management competency, motivational programs, and performance review procedures – ask and listen.

Related: 6 Ways Companies Can Motivate Smarter

Why Bother – He’s Leaving

Yup, he’s leaving.  And you might even sense you know why.  And maybe you are really pleased that he is finally leaving.  Well, do you want to avoid the discussion about his performance? I’ve had a number of circumstances where managers wanted to avoid these discussions.  In some instances when they did, other employees started to complain that the manager, not the employee, was part of the problem.  Do yourself a favor – have the conversation – even if it might be a tad uncomfortable.  Ask – do you think there might be areas where you have room for improvement?

When To Conduct The Interview

“Well, let’s see, work ends at 4 pm, I think I’ll call him in at 3:45 to get it over with.”  Please, don’t go there.  If you have time to plan, then schedule the exit interview a day or two before the end of his employment. I know some HR professionals who recommend having the interview after employment has ended. I also know a number of former employees who will not return those phone calls.  So, if you have time, do the interview in advance.

Be Respectful

Conduct the interview in a private setting.  If you think it’s important (because of the separation reasons) to have a witness present, then do so.  I’ve conducted many interviews where we are both seated next to one another – side by side. It’s always been important for me to make sure that, as uncomfortable as the interview can be, you need to be respectful of the employee.

Related: Workplace Bullying – Do Not Stand Alone

Who Does The Interview?

This answer is dependent on the size and structure of your business.  If you are small enough to have a direct relationship with your employees then do the interview yourself. If you have an HR professional he could conduct the interview.  Try to be unbiased and open in your listening, ask open ended questions, and be sincere and empathetic about the employee’s situation.

Use Forms

Huh?  That’s right.  Let’ go back to Tip 1 – Employer Interests.  Protect them. Make sure the questions you ask and the process you go through is uniform for each departing employee. It allows you to move through a series of questions in an orderly manner, and please make sure that you write down the answers to ensure there is a written record of the conversation and summary responses.  Believe me; the form comes in handy in the event of litigation or other adverse actions.

If you have questions on how to structure the exit interview process in a manner that is consistent with national law, consult a human resource and/or employment law expert.  It’s worth the investment.

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Warren Rutherford

Warren Rutherford

Warren runs The Executive Suite, providing leadership & executive coaching programs, professional recruitment, One Page Business Plans, and franchise coaching services to businesses. Located in Hyannis, MA Warren is expert at people management, helping business executives hire, manage, and motivate others smarter. . He serves as the Director of Coaching Programs for Innermetrix, Inc. He is accredited in a variety of assessment and coaching methods. He is an ardent advocate of innovation, creativity, and inspirational change in business in life.

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