April 13, 2009

Why you shouldn’t waste exit interviews

I’ve had five instances in my working life when an exit interview would have been appropriate. I have however only ever had one exit interview. At the time I had no idea what they actually were so asked my team leader. She told me it was to find out any ideas or suggestions I had to make the workplace better. It was also to discuss any issues or problems I saw - and what thoughts I had about them. Anyway, my time came and off I went to the big boss for my exit interview (I was excited about the info I wanted to share). I sat down; she looked at me, then said "So you’re leaving? We wish you all the best" with that, I was welcomed to stand and leave….that was my whole exit interview! I should probably still have no idea what they are given that was my experience of them! So just like that I left a company with 6000 staff who obviously didn’t have a standard exit interview procedure. I was thoroughly disappointed; I had also seemingly wasted a lot of thought on what I'd like to share. **sigh**!

An exit interview should definitley be a time to probe and ask and address everything. It’s a time for talking, pondering, (nicely) grilling and listening to soon-to-be-ex staff members. They have the info you should want.

Looking back, I am hugely, drastically and shockingly amazed that this huge company did not have a procedure for this. They had a procedure for EVERYTHING ELSE (including monitoring toilet breaks – everyone had to note the time they left their desk and the time they got back…) yet somehow exit interviews were overlooked.

I think exit interviews can be more powerful than the digging staff surveys do. Because they are leaving they may feel more comfortable being brutally honest. In an ideal world all staff should always felt comfortable saying what they like when they like to make the business better, though few workplaces manage this type of culture.

So does your business (whether you have 3 staff or 300,000) have a standard exit interview procedure? Do the interviews get done even when the staff member is leaving due to things like pregnancy, illness or moving town (instead of leaving due to some kind of dissatisfaction)? Whatever the circumstances don’t let the employee leave without allowing them their two cents worth about what could be better or changed at your workplace. Sure they can also tell you what is working, which is great to know, but the ‘what isn’t’ working is much more powerful. Do a google search to find out how to do an exit interview – there is tonnes of resources about it on there.

What experiences or knowledge would you like to share about exit interviews?

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