The Exit Interview
Exit interviews are interviews conducted with departing employees, just before they leave. From the employer's perspective, the primary aim of the exit interview is to learn reasons for the person's departure, on the basis that criticism is a helpful driver for organisational improvement.
Exit interviews are also an opportunity for the organisation to enable transfer of knowledge and experience from the departing employee to a successor or replacement, or even to brief a team on current projects, issues and contacts.
Good exit interviews should also yield useful information about the employer organisation, to assess and improve all aspects of the working environment, culture, processes and systems, management and development, etc.; in fact anything that determines the quality of the organisation, both in terms of its relationship with its staff, customers, suppliers, third-parties and the general public.
Many employers ignore the opportunity that exit interviews offer, chiefly because exit interviews have not been practised in the past, and starting them is a difficult initiative to undertake, given the potentially subjective and 'fuzzy' nature of the results; the time involved; and the unspoken corporate urge to avoid exposure to criticism. Exit interviews are nevertheless a unique chance to survey and analyse the opinions of departing employees, who generally are more forthcoming, constructive and objective than staff still in their jobs. In leaving an organisation, departing employees are liberated, and as such provide a richer source of objective feedback than employed staff do when responding to normal staff attitude surveys.
As ever, corporate insecurity and defensiveness can be an obstacle to implementing exit interview processes, so if the organisation finds it difficult to begin the practice as a matter of general policy, you can still undertake your own exit interviews locally with your own staff as and when they leave.
From the departing employee interviewee perspective, an exit interview is a chance to give some constructive feedback, and to leave on a positive note, with good relations and mutual respect. Recrimination, blame, revenge and spite are destructive feelings and behaviours, so resist any temptation you might have to go out all guns blazing. Be calm, fair, objective and as helpful as possible. In the future you may wish to return to the organisation (situations and people change..), and you may cross the paths of your ex-colleagues, managers in the future. The adage about treating people well on your way up because you might meet them on the way down applies just as well on your way out.The exit interview is an opportunity to shake hands and leave friends, not enemies.
Remember, Austin Clarke Search & Selection can also assist you in this sometimes difficult and awkward situation in an unbiased way.