From Welcome Aboard to All the Best: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Exit Interviews

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From Welcome Aboard to All the Best: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Exit Interviews

The key to unlocking your company’s potential lies in the hands of your departing employees.

As soon as an employee hands in their two-week notice, a new hiring process begins. While you’re mired in crafting job postings, evaluating potential candidates, and identifying the next star addition to your team, have you considered the final contribution a departing employee can make? Probably not. The answer is: participating in exit interviews.

Don’t take exit interviews the wrong way; they are not some corporate trick that companies use to squeeze every last drop out of their employees before they leave. Simply put, an exit interview is a meeting between an employee who is leaving the company and a representative of the Human Resources (HR) department. If done correctly, an exit interview can shed light on the whys and wherefores of staff leaving, reveal internal challenges, improve employee retention and guide the business towards improving the workplace culture for current and future team members.

If the above has turned off your light bulb about holding on to exit interviews and you happen to have been given two weeks’ notice lately, this HR best practice guide to effective exit interviews is for you.

Before an exit interview, remember to…

Schedule the interview at the right time

Since most employees give two weeks’ notice, exit interviews should be written about a week before they leave to ensure they are still engaged and willing to share their experiences both in their position and with the company as a whole.

However, some companies prefer to hold exit interviews after employees have left the company for a more casual, relaxed conversation. This gives employees more space to answer questions with zero stress about landing in hot water or inviting people over their words.

Prepare in advance

Each employee’s experience is unique, so even if you think you can conduct an exit interview in your sleep, it’s still important to plan ahead for each one individually. From choosing an interviewer and preparing interview questions to learning about the employee’s role and responsibilities and finding a conducive environment for the meeting, every step counts in the pursuit of an effective exit interview.

Leave the bosses out of the meeting

Whether the departing employee has a good boss or not, leaving senior employees out of the exit interview is a must. Since employees’ true thoughts may not be music to superiors’ ears, the involvement of a direct supervisor in the interview can make departing employees bite their tongues.

That’s why choosing the right interviewer is a crucial step. Instead of the line manager being the interviewer, it’s better to have an HR representative hold one-on-one meetings behind closed doors. In this way, employees can reveal their expertise without inhibitions.

During the interview remember to-

Explain the interview process

Before starting the conversation, explain to the employees the purpose and goal of the interview and how the information gathered will be used. If you have a written survey ready for employees to write their thoughts at the beginning or end of the meeting, give them a heads up. The most important thing is to make things as crystal clear as possible for employees so that they are not caught off guard by any arrangements they are not prepared for. Also, emphasize and reassure employees that what is discussed in the room will stay in the room only.

Ask the right questions

While you may not want the meeting to feel scripted, you should take the time to put pen to paper and think about some interview questions to ask. This will pave the way for a conversation that’s enlightening enough to get your company’s wheels turning. Keep in mind, though, that these questions should be short and constructive, without veering into personal (ie targeting specific individuals) or negative territory, or you risk turning the conversation into gossip and office drama.

Here are some effective interview questions to consider asking:

  • Why did you decide to leave our company?
  • How was your overall experience working here?
  • What did you appreciate most about our company?
  • How can we improve as a company?
  • Do you feel you have received adequate support in your role?
  • Is there anything you want to change about your role (eg onboarding process, employee benefits, training and development, career progression, work-life balance)?

In short, don’t bypass. Be selective and only look for questions that will contribute to the long-term growth and success of your company.

Be respectful and professional

Like other types of face-to-face business communication, exit interviews are an occasion that deserves your respect and professionalism. By listening actively and carefully while documenting employees’ insights, you can make them feel valued and that their words matter.

When more than one departing employee points the finger at the same problem, it can be a red flag that something is wrong with your company that you were blind to, whether it’s a management or organizational challenge.

Even if you disagree with the points the employee is making, refrain from being dismissive, defensive, or judgmental. This can lead to the conversation ending on a negative note, while tarnishing your workplace and even the company’s image.

After the interview, don’t forget to…

Ask if you can share the answers with the guide

Even though you’ve promised that every word shared in the interview is under wraps, you don’t want valuable advice that can help improve your company to end up in the trash. That’s why you should ask employees if you can share their answers with management before giving the final handshake.

Because any questions you ask should be objective and constructive, rather than personal, sharing the answers with managers or other higher-ups should never make anyone feel like they’ve been backstabbed or tarnish the image of others.

Be prepared to apply the interview feedback

If your employees give the green light to their brainstorming, it’s time to go back to your notes, think about how to apply those insights and give your business the boost it needs.

Consider putting constructive feedback on the agenda and sharing it at the next board meeting, as that’s when the bright minds of your company come together and make plans for the present and the future. With solid plans based on feedback, you can be sure that your company will take shape step by step.

Tracking on time

After you launch new initiatives fueled by feedback from former employees, don’t be afraid to share the updates with them. Even though they are no longer on your team, this is a golden opportunity to prove that your company took what was said in the exit interview to heart, enhancing the company’s reputation.

Waving goodbye to everyone on your team is always a bitter pill to swallow. However, on the bright side, this could be the time to bring in new blood and breathe new life into your company. With luck, this could be a new chapter in your business.

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