What do you do when those words spring from the lips of an employee you’ve relied upon?
Your first reaction may be to think “don’t let the door hit you ….”
Or — you may be inclined to shout “I’ll double whatever they are offering you!”
Instead, stop and ask yourself “what led to this moment?”
Employees don’t generally quit without a great inner debate. At what point did this person begin looking to leave and what can you learn from them to benefit the rest of your staff?
Here is a brief collection of resources to help you with this question:
Judy Rakowsky has prepared a Guide to Exit Interviews in which she states:
Conducting an exit interview is worthwhile when your company takes seriously the information it garners from an employee who is leaving the job voluntarily. It not only offers your organization a chance to gain constructive lessons, but it is a tool for transferring knowledge that is walking out the door with the employee.
A key statement: “when your company takes seriously the information ….” Don’t bother asking if you don’t plan on keeping an open mind to what you are about to hear.
Judy also talks about the value of conducting regular surveys throughout the life of an employee’s career. Asking for feedback on a consistent basis creates an atmosphere for sharing. If employees come to trust that you value their opinion, they will be more forthcoming.
Susan Heathfield expands on that idea in her article: How to Perform Exit Interviews. She even provides sample exit interview questions. However, a valuable point Susan makes in her article is not to wait until they are already out the door to gather information that can help improve your company:
The best time for an employee to discuss concerns, dissatisfactions and suggestions with his employer is while he is a committed employee, not on his way out the door. Make sure your organization provides multiple opportunities to gather and learn from employee feedback, including surveys, department meetings, comment or suggestion forms, and more.
How about the responsibility of the ex-employee? How should he or she approach an exit interview? Wayne Hurlbert of Blog Business World answers this question in a classic post he wrote entitled Leaving a Job: Exit Interview Advice. Wayne likens the exit interview as the “most important interview of a person’s career.” He recommends the following (with a bit of dry humor thrown in the last sentence):
Once in the discussion room, answer the questions in a positive way. Don’t ever bad mouth the company or other employee at any level. As with a hiring interview, criticism of previous employers is a sure way to not get hired, the same dynamic is at work in the exit interview. In this case, however, you are talking directly to that former employer. This advice counts double if you were fired from your job, and any missteps could be very costly to your future. If questions are asked about specific employees, think of something positive to say. Everyone has some good qualities; even if they might be very well hidden.
Wayne even suggests that an exit interview conducted professionally could lead to being rehired in the future.
The end of a job is a difficult and challenging time for both the employee and employer. How this final moment is conducted speaks volumes of both parties.
Do you use exit interviews to gain information to improve your management practices? In the past as an employee, how have exit interviews been used and how did it make you feel? And have you ever had to bite your tongue in an exit interview?