Conducting Exit Interviews
An exit interview is the last goodbye. It is a meeting in which an exiting employee bids farewell to an organization for the next place of employment, a chance to go back to school, or perhaps start a new company. The best exit interviews are a little bittersweet, and the worst are shouting matches. The session can be very sensitive and needs considerable care.The primary objective is listening. The exiting employee wants to talk about his or her experience, and perhaps get things off the chest. Human Resources conducts this, and a human resources specialist keeps in mind this is not a place for arguments. The exiting employee has information which may be critical to the organization. Problems surfacing in work teams and departments will come out in the discussion.
The Exit Interview Process
• It Is the Responsibility of Human Resources. And exiting employee does not want to have bad feelings follow him or her. An exit interview conducted by the immediate supervisor is a horrible idea. Human Resources acts as a neutral third-party. All this department is doing is looking for information and has no ax to grind.
• It Happens after the Resignation. Within a few days of submitting the resignation letter is time to sit down for that exit interview. What is important is this is a case where a person who is voluntarily leaving the company will be in a meeting with Human Resources. A terminated employee, especially one who is required to leave for cause, will not be allowed an exit interview. There are too many bad feelings.
• The Interviewer Needs to Prepare the Questions. The exit interview is not an employment interview. The questions will center on the organization, and perhaps what problems are there. The interviewer must keep a calm, objective, demeanor. It is a way of encouraging a person to talk that much more about the organization, and what challenges are there.
• The Notes Are Used To Compose a Formal Report. The exit interview is a matter of record. Information is an insight into the atmosphere of the workplace. As with the questions, objectivity is going to be essential.
Problems with Exit Interviews
Problems will surface with exit interviews as this procedure is not always a walk in the park. Several issues come up which can jeopardize the interview.
1. The Exiting Employee Does Not Want to Do It. The employee may think that the interview is a waste of time. He or she can have a cynical outlook and believe that nothing of any good will come from the discussion.
2. The Exit Interview Turns into a Gripe Session. Human Resources hopes that some solid information comes out of the interview. It doesn’t always occur, and it can turn into a recitation of vicious gossip. The exiting employee may have had some real trouble with certain people, and spends most of the time talking about them.
3. Not Enough Time Is Scheduled. The exit interview is not a rush job. It is an attempt to find out information that may help the company. Some of the complaints are legitimate and need special attention. At least one hour is the proper amount of time.
4. Nothing Good Comes from the Chat. It isn’t just the complaints. Sometimes people will use the interview to talk about things that are not very relevant. For example, the employee may discuss the new job and how great it is going to be. That doesn’t help at all.
5. Management Blocks the Information. Incompetent managers do not like exit interviews and are afraid of what will come out. They are willing to do anything to stop the information becoming known to their superiors. Human Resources has to be cognizant of the issue when they look at the data. It doesn’t mean hiding anything that was a problem. The more extreme situation is when executive management tries to block the information. It can happen, especially if the old manager is a good friend. There are ways to stop and exit interview from becoming a fiasco. It requires both the interviewer and the exiting employee to take charge of the meeting and keep it constructive. It is not that difficult to do and there are some easy ways to accomplish.
Conducting a Superior Exit Interview
1. Plan Carefully
Exit interviews are critical and merit the time needed to get ready for. One way to do this is to give the employee an exit survey a few days before. The interviewer can then use the information in the study to generate appropriate questions.
2. Plan the Exit Interview Appropriately.
These are the final thoughts a person has before leaving the company. The smart idea is to schedule it one or two days before the official exit. Conducting the interview too early allows an individual to think of some more problems or issues that are irrelevant. The final opinions are the most important.
3. Ask The Right Questions
The employee will volunteer information about harassment or discrimination. Consequently, there is no need to put questions regarding those issues. Better questions would be asking the employee what advice they would give to their successor in the company. Open-ended questions are going to be the best ones to ask because they permit a person to expand on their opinions. Do not bother asking gossipy questions. They are not useful.
It is a smart idea to ask the interviewer to complete their own exit survey afterward, which would give general information. The study can be easily quantified, and the data can help identify problems that cause a number of employees to leave.
The Employee Has Responsibility
The exit interview takes two people. The employee has certain responsibilities in making the conversation worthwhile. Failure to do a few things is going to result in an empty exercise.
1. Do Not Burn Bridges.
It is tempting to tell it like it is and point out all the bad things about one’s manager or colleagues. That is not the best strategy. If it becomes too vindictive, then the exit interview will be dismissed as a rant. The employee has to remember that even though he or she is departing, there is a good chance sometime later that person will be doing business with the company. It is better to resist the temptation of slamming another person who is staying behind.
2. Answer Any Exit Interview Survey Carefully.
An exit interview survey will influence the discussion in the meeting. There is no need to rush through this document. The employee is to keep in mind that the answers may make things easier for the friends and colleagues will be staying.
3. Be Gracious.
Being angry or wishing bad things to happen to the company is a terrible way to respond to the interview questions. A little bit of diplomacy helps. This is also not the time to blow your own horn. Some people may expound on how valuable they were to the company, and how difficult is going to be to survive without them. You’re saying it to the wrong person: Human resources specialists know how to recruit talent and can find a suitable replacement. Concentrating on facts not opinions will make the interview process more productive.
4. Conduct Your Own Exit Interview
You can get ready for your departure by informally talking with colleagues. These people can bring up some changes that will be good for the company. You then can add them to the comments made in the interview.
What Are the Benefits of This Interview?
Uncovering the opinion of employees is one of the primary advantages of the exit interview. Management does not always have a firm understanding of employee problems. Moreover, it is possible that certain techniques are producing adverse results. A good exit interview is going to show where problems are surfacing. Conversely, the exit interview shows where the company is doing the right thing. Management may discover that certain policies and procedures have a positive impact on the workforce. The exiting employee may have some very favorable comments. It is also possible that the conversation can lead to some suggestions to improve the workplace.
Human Resources needs to take the exit interview seriously because the problems lie in policies and procedures practiced by the department. It is also critical that upper management knows about the results of exit interviews. The discussion may uncover a need to upgrade the benefits program because people leave due to poor health coverage, or other less than acceptable benefits. The company may want to use a consulting firm to handle exit interviews. These people are neutral third parties who have no skin in the game. They are above the politics of the workplace and can dissect any problems which may be surfacing in the interviews.
Ultimately, the success of an exit depends on the honesty of the exiting employee and the skills of the human resources interviewer. Being able to stay above office politics and idle gossip is going to improve the quality of the interview. Management has to accept the fact people are going to leave their organization. The days of lifetime employment at one place or over as shown in our research into employee tenure. A company has to be aware of the reasons why people leave to make necessary changes. The exit interview uncovers difficulties in the cubicles.