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How Executives Can Benefit from Participating in an Exit Interview

professional skills

Exit interviews are a critical component of the hiring and firing process, making it an important part of HR that executives should take part in. Exit interviews give executives the ability to discover weak and strong points in company structure and operations, clear up misunderstandings, and reiterate reasons for termination if the employee was laid off or fired.

What is an Exit Interview?

Exit interviews are conducted at the end of employment when an employee leaves voluntarily, is terminated or is laid off. Exit interviews are not mandatory; however, they give employees the opportunity to voice complaints and provide opinions on how to make the workplace more effective. Here's a look at how executives can benefit from participating in exit interviews.

Exit interview with executive

Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

One benefit for executives participating in an exit interview is the opportunity to hear from the employee directly about the strengths and weaknesses of the workplace. Think of the exit interview as a time to hear unfiltered feedback from employees. Employees leaving a company to start a new chapter in their career most likely will not hold back when it comes to sharing thoughts and opinions relating to the workplace. Executives should use the interview as a time to gather information regarding workplace structure, leadership, communication processes, on-the-job training, support for employees and even competitiveness related to salary, benefits, and compensation.

Here are sample questions to ask during an exit interview:

  • What is your reason for leaving?
  • Did you look for other employment opportunities within the company before looking elsewhere? Why or Why not?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your work environment?
  • On the same scale, how would you rate your compensation, salary, benefits?
  • Did you receive the appropriate training and support needed to carry out your job?
  • Were there any concerns or issues with co-workers, immediate supervisors, or upper management?
  • What did you enjoy most about your job?
  • What was your least favorite part of your job?
  • What changes would you suggest the company make to better retain employees?

Executives can clear misunderstandings in exit interviews.

Clearing Up Misunderstandings

Participating in exit interviews is also beneficial for executives because they have the opportunity to provide feedback on the employee's complaints and praises. Even if the employee was fired, executives need to understand what motivated the employee to behave a certain way, causing eventual grounds for termination. This is a key time for executives to listen to the positive and negative statements from employees and use the interview as an opportunity to respond appropriately.

For instance, employees are encouraged to share their observations and experiences on the workforce during the exit interview. Suppose, however, an employee's observations are the result of a misunderstanding. Case in point, the employee feels there is no opportunity for promotion within the department or the company. The employee may feel this way because another co-worker was chosen for promotion consideration even though he was fairly new to the company. It's important for the executive to step in and explain promotion processes and determine if the employee simply felt left out or if there truly was a glitch in the promotion procedures.

Reiterating Reasons for Termination

Exit interviews are beneficial whether employees choose to leave or if they are fired. For employees who are fired, the exit interview gives them an opportunity to voice their thoughts regarding the termination and whether they agree or feel wronged by the decision. The decision will not change, but they are able to express their emotions. It's an opportunity for employees and executives to ask what went wrong or what led employees to take inappropriate actions. It's also a time when executives and HR managers can reiterate the reasons for termination and how the final decision was made.

While blowing off steam can be good for both employee and executive, keep in mind that the meeting is professional and should follow the protocol set by HR for exit interviews. Don't let the exit interview turn into an all-out verbal brawl or complaint session. Steer the questions towards a peaceful departure for all involved.

Executives can help end exit interviews peacefully.

After the Exit Interview

Executives benefit from exit interviews because the information obtained can help make changes within the work environment. Oftentimes, exit interviews lead executives to take a closer look at recruitment policies and procedures, interview questions, job descriptions, workloads, and training and support for employees. Changes may or may not be needed, but by reviewing the policies and procedures, executives can help strengthen the workplace and even future employee terminations and departures.

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By Amanda Johnson
June 2018
professional skills labor relations

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