When employees quit companies abruptly, it is usually done under bad terms. As such, a business owner may take it personally and not do an exit interview as they briskly escort the employee out the door.
But this can be incredibly short sighted, as it could have a profound lasting effect on recruiting and retaining others. Every employee that starts working with a company eventually does leave at some point. Afterwards, these former team members can either hurt or help the company through posts and other interactions on social media.
Lee McEnany Caraher, author of The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty from Your Employees, believes that companies need to create an environment that allows and encourages employees to return to them.
"Honoring past employees is a key to building a strong business," Caraher says. "How the company acts in the exit interview is just as important as the job interview."
Remember: That person can be a great referral source for new employees and customers in the future.
Building a Better Exit Interview
Your employee exit interview can be an effective goodbye that encourages the former employee to be an advocate and referral source for the company. It can also inform future hiring decisions. Here are a few ways to make that happen.
1. If it's their choice, ask why they are leaving.
During the exit interview, you can find out their exact reason for leaving. Make sure they know that their answers are confidential and that no negative actions will result regardless of what they say. Avoid getting defensive—it may be a good idea to not respond to what might be shortcomings in the company.
You can ask them what happened that led them to look for another job, and the biggest factor in accepting a new job. You can also find out why the current position no longer meets their personal career goals.
2. If they are fired, help them find a new job.
You may want to have your human resources department or an outside resource assist the employee in updating their resume and making any new career connections that are appropriate.
Consider offering a severance package that is affordable for the company and can help ease this financial transition for them. While this can be expensive for the business, it will be appreciated and remembered by the former employee.
3. Ask the former employee for their advice.
In the exit interview, you can show them they are still a valuable resource by asking what skills and tools the person who follows them needs to have to be successful in their job. You can also ask them what their expectations of what the job was when they initially accepted it and what it became before they decided to leave.
4. Discuss how long they should stay.
This can be tricky, but do what makes sense for the exiting employee and the business. Give them time to say goodbye to coworkers and transition to a successor. Depending on the position, this can be anywhere from one day to a few weeks.
5. Offer any other help the employee requests—within reason.
If assistance is offered to the employee in their transition to a new position outside the company, there may be a good chance that they will reciprocate and do a good job on transitioning themselves out. These handovers can be important to keeping the company running smoothly and lowering the cost of anyone leaving.
6. Wish them success in their future endeavors.
If they were a valuable employee, you can leave the door open for their return during the exit interview. When I left a major electronics company, my manager specifically said I was welcome to come back anytime. This made me feel like I could speak highly of my experience with this past employer.
You can also ask the employee if the company can stay in touch with them. Consider starting an initiative to keep in contact with past employees. Caraher suggests businesses "start their own alumni program to help keep former employees attached in some way to the company." One way to do this is by using private Facebook or LinkedIn groups and an email newsletter. Remember: This model has worked effectively for colleges who rely on their alumni for recruiting and fundraising. It may work for you.
Brian Forrester, co-founder of digital marketing company Workshop Digital, asks this during exit interviews at his company: "Would you consider returning to this company if a position were available in the future?"
"When a valuable employee leaves for another job," Forrester explains, "they may have unfulfilled expectations and want to come back to you."
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