Ideally, just before an employee ends their employment at your business, you should hold an exit interview with them.
This isn’t a legal obligation and if the employee has raised a complaint or claim as part of their exit, you should follow your grievance and dismissal policies and procedures, instead. However, if the employee’s exit is not in dispute, our experts strongly recommend holding an exit interview.
Exit interviews help to create a record that may be useful for multiple reasons, including evidencing a robust employment/HR process on your part, and recording what the employee said about their reasons for leaving, which may help you to evaluate whether this is an avoidable or unavoidable exit… and what you might want to do after you’ve heard what they have to say.
It’s also a good opportunity for you to ensure you’re aware of the status of projects that the employee was working on, so that you can make sure they are picked up by another employee when they leave.
You can either host exit interviews yourself, or you could hire a third party to do so on your behalf – as this could encourage more honest and useful responses from the employee.
Before the exit meeting
Firstly, send an invite to the employee detailing what the exit interview involves and when and where it would be held. They’re under no obligation to accept the invitation, so consider offering them a questionnaire to fill out instead, if they decline a face-to-face meeting.
If the employee accepts your invitation, aim to hold the exit interview as close as possible to the employee’s leaving day, as they’re more likely to be willing to give honest and constructive feedback when they are close to leaving.
It’s also important that you hold the meeting in a space where you won’t be overheard or disturbed by others.
If it’s practical for you to do so, invite a colleague to attend to act as a witness and keep a detailed record of what is said during the meeting, so that you can give your whole attention to the employee.
Think about the specific role of the employee and the reasons you so far understand for them leaving the business. Prepare a list of questions you would like to ask them in their exit interview. It’s good to have a standard list of these questions and then augment or tailor them as appropriate for each outgoing employee.
During the meeting
Welcome the employee into the room, encourage them to speak frankly, and reassure them that their feedback given during the interview will be appreciated, whether positive or negative.
Make it very clear that even if the opinions shared by the employee are not favourable to the business, it won’t be held against the employee in any way, but will instead be used to evaluate employment-related factors in the business going forward.
When asking the employee questions about their employment experience, try to use open questions (such as those starting with how, why, what) rather than closed questions (such as those that can be answered with a simple yes or no). Open questions will encourage a longer, more detailed reply – in turn giving you more detailed feedback to consider.
If you’re unclear about anything that the employee has said, ensure you ask them for clarification to ensure that the results of the meeting are as accurate as possible. Make sure that the details of the meeting are being recorded in some way, so that you can review and refer to the employee’s feedback at a later time.
Thank the employee for their time, and remind them that the feedback given will help to make the employee experience as positive as possible.
After the meeting
Review the employee’s feedback, and evaluate whether it results in a need to take any relevant actions. For example, do you need to refine your recruitment strategy to ensure you’re getting the right candidates? Might a team benefit from restructuring or a change of location in the office? Does your remuneration or benefits policy need reconsidering? Can you offer training or other opportunities that might entice talented individuals to stay for longer?
If the employee had any suggestions or feedback that you’re not sure would be felt by most of your staff, consider asking them to complete a questionnaire (anonymously if appropriate) to gauge whether it's something that you should address. This can create a helpful record if you want to validate something that you have been told and see whether solutions whether might have in mind would be appreciated by those who continue to work with you; but it might equally be a double-edged sword, if it triggers dissatisfaction or complaints from other employees. If you do want to conduct a survey like this, focus on the positive questions, such as ‘what would you like more of?’, ‘how would you like us to approach [topic]?’ These are much more likely to be received positively, enlist constructive responses and reassure your staff that you have their interests in mind.
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