Exit interviews are interviews conducted with departing employees. The primary aim of the exit interview is to learn the reasons for the person’s departure. Any insights and criticism they give is a helpful driver for organisational improvement. An exit interview is also an opportunity for the organisation to transfer knowledge from the departing employee to their replacement.
A good exit interview should also yield useful information about the employer and the company, to assess and improve all aspects of the working environment, culture, processes and systems, management and development. An exit interview is a unique chance to analyse the opinions of departing employees, who generally are more forthcoming, constructive and objective than staff who are still working for the company.
Exit interviews are one of the most important yet underutilised procedures. When an employee leaves the organisation they could provide extremely candid and useful information regarding problematic employment practices that are not apparent to the HR professional.
Exit interviews seem to be a controversial topic across the HR and recruitment industry. Many see them as essential, especially for gaining valuable insight into working conditions and company culture, while others see them as pointless. Whatever your point of view, exit interviews are an essential part of the overall HR strategy and procedure for many businesses.
Keep it Professional
When it comes to an exit interview, it is important to keep them professional. Ensure you book the exit interview in advance, give the employee plenty of warning and if necessary, arrange a HR employee to attend the meeting to make notes. It is important to ensure you follow HR procedures, so beforehand read up on all policies to plan the structure of the interview and what questions you should and would like to ask.
Plan and Prepare
You should treat the exit interview as you would preparing to interview a new employee. It is important to try and plan and prepare some questions ahead of time. Consider what you are interested in finding out, what might the employee be able to tell you about your business which might have contributed to their decision to leave. This could be anything from work hours, salary, holidays, career progression etc. Their reasons could also be causing your other employees to look for work elsewhere, so addressing these issues could be crucial to your company.
In an exit interview, it is important to listen to exactly what the employee has to say as this information could prove invaluable. You need to give them the opportunity to speak openly and listen to what they are telling you and most importantly why they have decided to look elsewhere.
Give the Employee the Option Not to Attend
Exit interviews may be a part of a lot of HR strategies but it does not mean they should be mandatory or that the employee has any legal obligation to attend. It is important you give the employee the option whether to attend.
Make it Personal
If you are running a small business, sometimes people tend to take it personally when people hand in their notice, but you must ensure you keep it professional. Try and put any personal differences you might have with an employee aside and approach it with a business mindset.
It is common for us all to take criticism personally and act defensively, but in an exit interview you will really need to resist. Even if they were not the greatest employee or you may have had your disagreements, it is important to stay calm and act professionally. You want the employee to feel confident that they can speak openly without judgement, so be sure to hold your tongue when necessary.
Forget to Make Notes
During the exit interview, do not forget to make notes. These notes will help you recall the conversation and they may also help you out in the future if the employee decides to take further action. These notes can act as your minutes and can help you recount exactly what was said by who and the order in which it was said. This is a great reason to ask a HR representative to take notes on your behalf.
Be Too Pushy
It is important to ensure you are not too pushy when it comes to an exit interview. Whether asking an employee to take part in the exit interview or quizzing them about their reasons for leaving. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and also their privacy, while you want to gain company insights you need to respect their decisions if they are not forthcoming with any information.
An employer that does not conduct exit interviews may be missing out on an abundance of useful information, together with the opportunity to identify post-employment legal risks. For instance, some employees may try to sue the company for wrongful termination while others may breach their contract and take valuable company information with them to competitors.