No one likes saying goodbye to valued employees. It can be the worst part of the job for HR professionals, but it’s inevitable.

There are many reasons why an employee may leave his/her position: termination, redundancy, resignation and the end of a contract. Unfortunately, redundancies have been common this year as a result of COVID-19.

No matter what the reason is behind an employee leaving their role, it’s important that your organisation delivers a consistent, compliant and positive goodbye. This can be done with a solid offboarding process that handles exiting employees gracefully. A large part of a good onboarding process is the exit interview.

Why are exit interviews important?

Exit interviews are just as important as initial job interviews. They serve as information gathering tools where employers can gain a deeper understanding of the organisation through an employee perspective and capture sentiment as they walk out of the door.

Exit interviews can help determine the pulse of a workforce, the effectiveness or day-to-day processes and management styles, individual contribution and employee experience.

Below are 3 big reasons why exit interviews should not be skipped.

  1. Departing employees are likely to be more genuine when giving both positive and negative feedback and divulge truthful feelings about their time at the company.
  2. Feedback can help an organisation identify its strengths, weaknesses and room for growth.
  3. A well-structured exit interview will leave a positive lasting impression on an employee which benefits the employer brand. It also opens a space for the employee to feel comfortable returning to the company in the future, if they wish. Also, don’t forget “boomerang employees”! That is, employees who leave your workplace for a period of time, only to return further down the track. These boomerangs can be worth their weight in gold, in terms of the experience and positive sentiment they can bring back to your workplace.

What an exit interview should entail

Exit interviews can fill in a lot of gaps about why the individual is leaving. Below are some questions that should be asked in the case of a resignation.

  • How long have you been considering your resignation?
  • What’s the reason behind your decision to leave your position?
  • If you have already accepted another position, what do you find attractive about your new role?
  • What did you like and dislike about your role, and what would you change?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your manager/supervisor? What could your supervisor/manager do to improve their leadership style?
  • What’s your impression of the company culture and work environment?
  • Do you feel your professional growth and development was supported?
  • Do you feel your wellbeing was supported?
  • Is there anything else you care to share about your time at our company, and any further feedback/suggestions about the way we do things?

When should exit interviews be conducted?

The offboarding process can be broken down in 10 steps. These are:

  1. Communicate the employees’ departure to the team
  2. Transfer the employee’s knowledge to their successor
  3. Recover company assets (mobile phones, laptops, equipment)
  4. Update your org charts and company directory
  5. Revoke systems access
  6. Complete final pay process
  7. Perform an exit survey or interview
  8. Provide letters of reference and exiting documentation
  9. Thank the exiting employee and make sure they feel appreciated for their contribution
  10. Engage the former employee in an alumni group

As shown above, the exit interview should take place after a number of other steps have been completed and ticked off, so that there is no unfinished business to attend to. To download the full Employee Onboarding Checklist, click here.

Using exit interviews as a compliance tool

Exit interviews can also be used as a compliance and risk management tool. By asking the right questions, an employer can uncover inappropriate behaviour such as discrimination, workplace harassment, etc. which can lead to legal action and bad publicity. 

Dealing with matters before the employee departs is much less complicated than dealing with legal action later down the line. Basically, you should get to know the good and the bad before it’s too late!

Should exit interviews take place when the employer terminates employment?

Requesting that an employee sits an exit interview in the case of involuntary termination (i.e. the employer has ended the employment) is a grey area.

In a scenario where the employee in question was underperforming, demonstrated serious misconduct or breached their contract, it’s safe to say that the necessary conversations about the employment may have already taken place before the employee’s last day.

In a redundancy scenario, it may appear crass to expect an employee who has been laid off to sit an exit interview and answer questions about their employment journey. However, if the redundancy is dealt with respectfully, and the employee in question is given the choice to fill out an optional short questionnaire on their way out, the organisation may still learn something valuable, and the employee may feel respected and empowered that the situation was out of their control.

Overall, exit interviews are a great opportunity for organisations to squeeze out some last-minute feedback from departing employees and use that insight to improve the way they do things. For the departing employees, it is a final “thank-you” and a simple way to provide feedback.

HROnboard, an ELMO company, offers a best-in-class software solution that reduces the amount of time HR teams and leaders spend securing the best candidates and undertaking the critical onboarding process for new hires. Our solution also helps manage internal employee role changes and can create a smooth and seamless process for exiting employees. 

ELMO Software offers innovative cloud-based HR & payroll solutions to more than 1600 organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, helping them to manage, engage, and inspire their people. Our solutions span the entire employee lifecycle, from ‘hire to retire’. This includes a comprehensive suite of complementary solutions that further enhance the onboarding experience, namely Recruitment, Learning Management, HR Core, Survey and Connect. For further information, contact us.

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