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When people think about employees leaving a company, their minds might not necessarily jump straight to positive outcomes. Surely when someone resigns, it’s almost always a difficult, negative and/or stressful experience for that person and the company itself?

Well, I’m here to tell you that that doesn’t have to be the case! An employee exit can be a positive experience – both for the employee who’s leaving, and for those who still remain at the workplace. There is one particular tactic I’ve found to be vital in achieving this outcome: the exit interview.

Below, we will take a closer look at exactly what an exit interview is, why it’s a good step to undertake when an employee leaves, and how it can help contribute to a positive employee exit experience.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a conversation between a leaving employee and a senior team member – usually a HR manager, but sometimes a direct manager or supervisor (or even, in smaller businesses, the owner of the company). It’s usually conducted on the employee’s last day at work, and can be as formal or informal as the employer chooses.

In an exit interview, the employee and senior team member sit down for a private discussion. A series of questions is asked (more on what kind of questions below), and any final matters are discussed and resolved.

What are the benefits of an exit interview?

An exit interview serves multiple functions. It helps to give the employer a better understanding of why the employee is leaving a business, and gives the employee a chance to present open and honest feedback. It’s also an opportunity to end things on a positive note – to close off the employee’s time at the company in an open, fair and constructive manner. If there have been any tensions or issues in the workplace, it provides a chance to clear the air and gain some insight into how your employees’ experiences can be improved. This in turn can help prevent further departures and contribute to a more positive workplace environment and culture.

Remember, also, that word of mouth is crucial when it comes to a company’s reputation. It’s a small world out there – especially here in Newcastle, where everybody seems to know everybody! If an employee leaves your company with a bad taste in their mouth, they’re likely to share their negative experiences, potentially damaging your brand and your future recruitment options. But if they have a positive experience and leave with a good impression, they can actually be a great advocate for your business. They’ll spread the positive word, helping to send clients or potential employees your way, and may possibly even return to work for you themselves sometime in the future.

How to conduct an exit interview

An exit interview doesn’t have to be a long or overly formal process. Most employers prefer to approach it as a friendly, open chat and an opportunity to learn and improve their business. Once an employee gives notice of their resignation, schedule a time for their exit interview, usually on their last day of work. Let them know that it will be a brief chat to mark their departure and go over anything the employee wishes to discuss.

Conduct the interview in a private location where both parties feel comfortable and other team members can’t hear or see the discussion. Reassure the employee that the interview is a safe space for them to be open and honest. Remember that you’re here to learn from them, and to leave them with a positive, respectful final experience with your company.

Asking the right questions is crucial. The information you gain from an exit interview can help you improve your company’s processes, workplace environment and employee retention. You may wish to ask some or all of the following questions:

  • What led to your decision to leave your position?
  • How would you describe your overall experience working with the company?
  • How would you describe your experience working with your manager/supervisor?
  • Do you feel you had adequate tools, resources and support to do your job well?
  • What aspects of your job did you like most?
  • What aspects of your job did you dislike?
  • What improvements would you suggest for the company’s processes?
  • What improvements would you suggest for the workplace environment?
  • What skills and qualifications do you believe we should focus on in hiring your replacement?

After your questions are complete, offer the employee the opportunity to provide any further feedback or comments they may not have already covered. Throughout the interview, be sure to write down all the key points of the employee’s answers and comments.

Once the interview is complete, remember to thank the employee for providing their feedback, and for their time at the company.

In addition to the exit interview, a farewell morning or afternoon tea on the employee’s last day is always a nice gesture. A small goodbye gift from the company can also help to show your appreciation and round off the overall exit experience in a positive manner.

For more tips on improving employee experience and creating a positive company culture, check out my article on making your team feel appreciated and motivated. You can also contact me on 0411 043 537 or via email at alissa.bower@gwgpartners.com.au.

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