When Employees Leave: 4 Tips for Conducting the Exit Interview

It’s an unfortunate reality that even the best employees may not stick around forever. This often leaves employers with a string of lingering questions, wondering what they could have done differently to prevent the departure. While it’s impossible to go back in time, the valuable insights gained from a great exit interview can prevent this scenario from recurring with other talented employees. Even the saddest goodbyes can become important learning experiences.

  1. Schedule the Meeting at the Employee’s Convenience

Some employees may not be comfortable with the idea of an exit interview. They may feel as though they’re being put on the spot, especially if the concept is nonchalantly dropped into their unsuspecting lap. While exit surveys can be helpful, they give an employee the opportunity to overthink the scenario. You’re more likely to receive honest answers by requesting an exit interview before building up the entirety of the exit process. Schedule as close to the employee’s last day as possible in order to avoid hesitance about creating awkward situations that may arise from an employee’s candor.

2. Know What You Want to Know

Bombarding the employee with a laundry list of scripted questions can make an exit interview feel more like an interrogation. That’s the last thing you want. As a direct result of this attitude, the employee is likely to give you the answers he or she believes you want to hear rather than answers rooted in genuine truth. A casual interview will keep the conversation running smoothly and give you opportunities to naturally integrate these questions. What did the employee enjoy about his or her job? What would this person have changed? Do other employees feel the same way? Take this feedback and apply it when it’s feasible to do so.

3. Avoid Divisive Topics

Though emotions may be running high, it’s crucial to remember that an exit interview is not a witch hunt. It’s your job to remain impartial to gossip, and to refrain from expressing opinions that may be deemed as unprofessional. Don’t blame the employee for leaving, or discuss private matters that relate to the employment of others. The employee who is leaving may have some unpleasant things to say about supervisors or coworkers, and it’s okay to validate their feelings – just don’t reinforce them with any ammunition or discuss disciplinary procedures out of turn.

4. Put Yourself in The Employee’s Shoes

After the exit interview is complete, the next step is to interpret the data. It may be hard for your to envision why this person has decided to leave, or why key factors ultimately became deal breakers. View the situation through the eyes of the employee. How would you have felt? What would you have done? If these same issues may be affecting others in the workplace, it may be time to have a discussion with your remaining employees about their perceptions. The employee you’ve interviewed could be the first of several who intend to leave for the same or similar reasons, and you need to turn your insight into actionable change that will improve the working lives of your employees.

An exit interview isn’t the most pleasant experience you’ll subject yourself to, but it’s certainly enlightening. Retaining your employees is much more efficient than running a hiring cycle every few months to replace the employees who are walking away. Simply showing that you listen and demonstrating your willingness to apply your feedback can make your company better, and your future candidates eager to become a part of it all.

Bio: James Pointon is a business blogger deeply interested in all aspects of making a company stand out from the competition – be it through perfect marketing, great service or a passionate team of employees. Currently, James is supporting OpenAgent – real estate professionals from Australia.

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