Q: My company doesn't currently have a formalized separation policy. We've been thinking about developing an Exit Interview, but aren't sure how best to structure that. Are there any best practices?
A: An exit interview is an excellent idea for a number of reasons. First, it can help you to improve retention. If you're consistently getting the same feedback, that could highlight an area you'll want to examine more closely. Second, in the case of a terminated employee, it can help defend against litigation. Your former employee may be more candid about their performance and attitudes as they relate to reasons for separation before they have obtained counsel, and you'll want to make sure your interview is structured to solicit that kind of honest feedback.
Some feedback you may want to ask for in an exit interview includes:
- Reason(s) for Separation
- Feelings Related to Immediate Supervisor
- Was direction clear
- Were complaints handled fairly
- Suggestions for improvement
- Feelings Related to Pay and Benefits
- Feelings Related to Career Path
- Feelings Related to Training
- Feelings Related to Empowerment
- Feelings Related to Work Environment
If you are terminating the employee, you'll want to ask what they believe the problem was, and what they might have done to improve their performance or attitude with the company. Make sure the employee signs an exit interview form that specifies the reasons for separation. You might also want to have an additional witness in the room during the interview as you may need corroboration should a lawsuit develop. Both the interviewer and the witness should take their own notes.
Many companies with high turnover (e.g. sales, customer service) often use written or online exit surveys in lieu of in-person conversations. In many cases, this format allows for a confidential response which gives the employee the freedom to respond more openly. Remember, the ultimate goal of the exit survey is to solicit feedback in order to target opportunities for improvement. The exit process also provides disgruntled employees a place to complain in lieu of using external agencies.