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Unmask the truth in exit interviews

Turn a formality into a gold mine

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in Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

An employee quits, and you instantly shift your focus to finding a replacement. That’s fine, as long as you don’t overlook the exit interview.

A departing worker can reveal all kinds of juicy information that you would have no other way of learning. Example: Bankers Trust Corp. uncovered fraud by its senior executives in its vast transaction-processing unit, thanks to information its personnel managers gained during a routine exit interview of a clerk.

Maximize your exit interview with these steps:

Prep the interviewee. A few days before the scheduled interview, give the employee a list of issues or questions you wish to raise. Examples can include relationships with colleagues, suggestions for improvement and opinions on any recent changes.

This puts the employee on notice that you intend to treat the exit interview seriously, and that you want the individual to ponder certain matters in advance. It also increases the likelihood that you’ll get more thoughtful, substantive responses.

Distribute a satisfaction survey. Arrange for departing employees to arrive 10 minutes before the actual interview. Give them a questionnaire to complete during that time.

By having them rate their jobs and workplaces in a range of areas, you can spot trends and root out morale problems before they spread. If you notice that an outgoing worker criticizes a certain boss, for instance, you can suggest solutions for that boss (such as management training) to avoid further defections.

Play it cool. Train interviewers to avoid judging or lecturing. By detaching themselves and simply gathering information, they enable departing employees to open up. Tell interviewers not to interrupt or contradict.

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