Some employees you just can’t wait to get rid of. They constantly show themselves to be less than capable, nothing will motivate them and they end up causing more trouble than they’re worth. Other times, there are fantastic employees that have to leave because of personal reasons, or they simply found another job that is more to their liking. However, both of these employees still have some worth while they’re on their way out. Each of them could give you some invaluable feedback about your business and actually do something for you that no other employee may be willing to do. They can give you absolute, bare bones, no holds barred truth. This in itself is worth a wheelbarrow filled with gold, as they could enlighten you on things that are going terribly wrong in your business. Equally, they can shine a light on the aspects of your leadership that need improving, could help you become a better boss for the future. Regardless of how your professional relationship ends with them, use your limited time available to learn everything of value from their time with you and their departure.
Let honesty reign free
Now that the worker in question is set to leave, their colleagues can be honest. Before you interview the employee set to leave, drag some of their colleagues into your office. Explain to them the situation if they are not already savvy. Firstly explain to them that none of what they will be asked and say will be allowed to leave the room and spread a rumor across the work area. This will allow them to relax, and be assured that no repercussions will come their way for departing with information about another coworker.
Ask them about their personal relationship with the employee that is leaving; professionally speaking. How did they interact with each other daily, was the other person pleasant and a joy to work with, or were there some barriers? How well do they think the worker performed in their role, and did they deserve to be in that position? Compared to other workers, who would most likely be able to fit in their shoes once they have left? What were the key highlights of that person being employed? Judging by the actions of the soon-to-be departed from the business, how could that role be improved for someone in the future? Ask these questions to a number of workers that regularly worked with the person leaving, no matter what rank and role they hold. Document the feedback and reflect on it to see what areas of your business and people management skills could be improved.
Before the exit
Don’t look at the departing employee like another professional looking for a job, they are a walking talking computer of knowledge about your business. They know things that you don’t, so setting the environment for them to vent a little steam and also feel comfortable with going into detail with you, should be created. The person that normally conducts the exit interview as it’s called, is going to be the HR manager, head of the respective department or a team manager i.e. supervisor. The interview should be done in a room where there are chairs designed for leisure. You’re not doing a job interview whereby the person is in an empty room sat opposite you from a table. Instead, this should be a friendly chat over some coffee, with regular intervals of chit-chat. Don’t forget, they’re still your colleague and not a stranger of any kind. Talk to them like you would normally.
Now comes the difficult part, what questions to ask during exit interviews? First off ask them why they began looking for another job? It could be due to work dissatisfaction, a lack of promotion or rather the pay was just better. What convinced them that their future position was going to be more fulfilling than their current role? What kind of qualities should you look for, in the replacement of them? This can be an awkward question as this makes it seem like they’re replaceable but explain that you’re looking for someone who has similar characteristics as they possess, therefore in their view what is required to be successful in their role. What was the best and worst part of the job? Towards the end, attempt to break the fourth wall if you will, and ask them to comment on absolutely anything they would like to. This means being brutally honest about their colleagues, the company culture, the quality of the environment such as office equipment and the events your business is relevant in.
Take a tour
While you still have them with you, relieve them of their duties for a day or two and take a tour of the business with them. Walk around the office, warehouse, retail or whatever is relevant to you. Talk to them about features around the office, such as the chairs, computers, even the filing system. Ask questions about what could be improved. They will be reminiscing and thinking back through the months and years, something useful is bound to pop into their mind that can help you. Obviously, ensure them on these tour days that they will be getting paid the same as their normal working days.
Final meeting with HR
Before they go off on their merry way, have the employee sit down with the HR department. The HR department should be instructed to ask them questions about how health and safety can be improved. Issues that may not have been reported due to ruffling a few feathers could be done now. If an employee other than them is doing something that is unsafe, you can quickly rectify the problem and perhaps discipline that person for disobeying the rules behind your back. Colleagues won’t want to tell on each other sometimes, even when they know they’re doing something wrong. However, this particular staff member is due to be leaving, and thus can inform you of the bad eggs in your midst.
The HR department can also ask the employee about how health insurance packages, holiday pay, and mental support can be improved. If they are leaving their position because of stress and the amount of holidays not being to their liking, you can factor in the level of stress and demand from their job and try to rebalance these things for the next person to take their role.
What can be changed now?
Before the employee finally leaves for good, make the effort to implement some of the changes recommended by them. Don’t be too hasty and implement things that should be considered carefully. Seek out the small things that can be done right now. This could be a method of giving feedback to colleagues, a communication between departments, the ability to make sudden changes to orders using the interface software. It could even be a change in office equipment, such as printers, scanners, and chairs. If changes can be made to improve the lounge area based off of their advice, see if you can make them happen. Make the small changes now so you can start evolving your business little by little.
Exit interviews are one of the most useful procedures for a business. The departing employee potentially has so much knowledge which they’re taking with them. Sit them down in an environment with no pressure, have a hot drink with them and a snack, and converse about what could be improved and their reasons for leaving. Their feedback will make the role easier for the person you hire to take over the job.
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