Why exit interviews are the way to go
In many companies, interviewing departing employees has become standard practice to clear the air and identify existing problems. The finweek team looks at the potential (and pitfalls) of exit interviews.
With one foot out the door, the employee is in a much better position to be honest about existing issues that can be addressed.
the real cost of a resignation is considerable. Finding a successor to replace a capable employee can take a lot of time and energy, as well large wads of company cash. Also consider that your organisation is at risk of not only losing a chunk of invaluable institutional memory, but also potentially having it implanted into a competitor.
Enter the exit interview, which – if done well – can play an important role in preventing losing other staff. With one foot out the door, the employee is in a much better position to be honest about existing issues that can be addressed.
You can achieve a number of things by extracting the right information from a departing employee. These include:
Identify problems in a team
A frank discussion about the internal tensions and management style of the employee’s superior can give you great insight into problems that may compel other team members to become disengaged and leave the company. Always ask the interviewee for ideas on how these problems can be resolved, which will assist you when taking action in the future.
Fine-tune the job spec
Test your understanding of the skills, experience, and attributes needed for the job against the employee’s experience of their actual duties.
Get a lead for a replacement
The departing employee may know someone else who would be perfect for the job.
Prevent potential legal issues
The right questions about workplace conduct, harassment, compliance and discrimination can highlight any potential areas of liability (particularly for constructive dismissal claims).
Improve the business
The departing employee may have inputs on how the company could better serve clients and enhance internal efficiency, not only in their own team, but also other departments.
Now is a good time to ascertain whether the employee had all the required training, tools and resources to do the job.
Promote your company brand
If the departing employee had a very negative experience, the exit interview is the last chance to salvage your company’s reputation as an employer.
Make sure you keep the conversation positive and commit to using the feedback to make the company a better place. Whatever you do, don’t get defensive when faced with criticism and create a safe space (by excluding the employee’s immediate superiors) to allow for an open and constructive discussions.
Some of the questions to ask include:
Why are you leaving? What would have made you stay? How can we improve our working environment? What do you value (and dislike) about our company? How would you describe our company culture? How can the company improve its service to clients and overall efficiency? What would you include in the job specifications for your position? Would you consider working for us again in future? If you were our CEO for a day, what would you do? The value of an exit interview lies mostly in the processes that support it and the way that feedback is handled. Your company needs to have a formal system to make sure that constructive criticism is captured and actually has an impact on how the business is managed.
If you are leaving a company, and have agreed to an exit interview, keep the following in mind:
Don’t slate anyone
Corporate South Africa is a small place – chances are you will work with at least one or two of your co-workers again at some point in your career. Be courteous and pleasant, and very careful about what you say. Don’t feed the interviewer any gossip or share
personal judgements; keep it neutral. Attacking your co-workers or managers will only reflect poorly on you, and leave you looking vengeful and vicious. At the same time, be honest when asked about relationships – but back it up with examples, not emotional diatribes.
Stick to the facts
Set emotion aside, and demonstrate how capable and professional you are by demonstrating your knowledge of the company and its culture. Keep the focus on what would be best for the business.
Don’t focus on trivial matters
Now is not the time to bring up the fact that someone kept on stealing your lactose-free dairy substitute from the staff fridge. Be careful of coming across as petty.
Attacking your co-workers or managers will only reflect poorly on you, and leave you looking vengeful and vicious.
Go easy on the schadenfreude
You may be super psyched about your new job and the fantastic new company you are joining, but keep it (and your thoughts about the grim prospects of the company you are leaving) to yourself.