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.

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY - ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

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.

Re­sources au­dit

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.

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