To be offered a new job is exciting and the departure process from your current employer may be even more exciting. Often times once a voluntary resignation letter is submitted by the employee, it is only a matter of time before a farewell office party is being planned and a card is being passed around to staff to write well-wishes to the departing employee. Of course this is not always everyone’s situation, but it tends to be a celebratory practice that both the employer and employee participate in as a form of goodwill.
However, for many employers the most critical aspect of bidding farewell to an employee is the exit interview. Some companies may use an exit interview to collect data to improve employee retention. Unfortunately, many employees feel uncomfortable participating in an exit interview because they are weary about whether any critical feedback they provide will penalize them for any re-hire or employment reference opportunities. Another reason that departing employees dread exit interviews is because they simply aren’t interested in providing any type of feedback to the employer.
The exit interview is the employee and the employer’s last dance together. It should be a graceful process where neither party is stepping on one another toes. I’m not suggesting that the employee lie about any workplace concerns that were experienced. I’m also not suggesting that the employer avoid asking and objectively considering the employees’ critical feedback about the work environment. Instead, both parties should maintain professional decorum in a space to speak candidly. Exit interviews aren’t useful if an employee is having an emotional gripe-session. It’s important that critical feedback is supported by facts that offer a clear insight of how to improve the work environment.
Some employees who are exiting a company may ask themselves, “Should I tell the truth about any unfavorable experience that I encountered or pretend that it was the best job that I’ve ever had?” There isn’t a cookie cutter answer to this question because every person and their work culture experience are different. Some articles advise that the employee keep all concerns to him/herself and leave with a smile. According to a Forbes article written by Kerry Hannon via career coach named Maggie Mastal, employees are advised to pre-vent in a faux- resignation letter that will never see the light of day- see article at http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2015/06/04/exit-interview-dos-and…. The purpose of the faux- resignation letter is to express any hot button workplace grievance prior to the exit interview. It helps to release any stress, tension, and anger that an employee may otherwise express during the exit interview.
In addition to being able to maintain professional decorum and goodwill during the exit interview, employees and the employer should identify any critical knowledge transfer functions that need to be performed. According to Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a UK global policy development think tank, knowledge management and transfer procedures are essential during the exit interview process. ODI recommend the following at http://www.odi.org/publications/5247-exit-interview:
• Identify who in the organization might benefit from the leaver’s knowledge and what they will need to know from that person.
• Consider who currently accesses the person’s knowledge and what they need to know from the replacement staff. Think about documented explicit knowledge (in files, documents and emails) as well as tacit knowledge (know-how), which needs to be explained.
• Develop a plan in a participatory way to ensure knowledge can be captured and documented during the leaver’s notice period. An Activity-based Knowledge Mapping could prove useful, providing a framework for conversations about how key tasks are undertaken, what inputs and outputs are involved, obstacles and bottlenecks, etc. Internal and external networks and other sources of knowledge should also be discussed.
• For explicit knowledge, the leaver should move relevant files – hard and electronic – into shared folders or a document library. Ideally, they should be clean up and organize all files and draw up a related set of notes for their successor.
For instance, if the employee is solely responsible for performing timesheet and payroll processing duties then it is critical that the employee communicate the organization and storage status of all completed and pending work. Any “work-in-progress” projects should be streamlined through reassignment to other staff members. Everyone should know how to access the departing employees’ computer and paper files. Needless to say, the employee should meet with the appropriate parties, such as a manager and fellow team members, to discuss the status of the uncompleted projects/job tasks that they’re leaving behind.
Although it may be tempting to some employees to leave an employer scrambling to find resources to perform their job duties until the vacancy is filled, it undermines their skill set and may give the employer any evidence that they need to label them as incompetent. A renegade approach could actually backfire and jeopardize future job opportunities for departing employees who attempt to sabotage employers’ business operations during the resignation process.
Employees are encouraged to understand their company’s exit interview policy. By understanding the policy it allows employees to be proactive and involved in practicing protocol. It ensures that the employee remain in compliance with their employer as both parties are transitioning.
Employers need to identify what tools they will utilize to capture exit interview data. An online survey or a face-to-face interview is among the most common options. Technology has evolved where exit interviews can be an online interactive experience with software applications like FaceTime or Skype or actual online survey interfaces such as Survey Monkey. Every organization is different and work across various industries and geographical time zones. Exit interview policies and platforms should be reviewed on a bi-annual basis to ensure that they are conducive for their respective organizational system.
Overall, the exit interview doesn’t have to be a painful process for the employee or employer. The exit interview is actually a wonderful time to use unfiltered data to improve the organization. If the company decides to hire consultants to improve a process or culture, the exit interview data can help provide a blueprint that expedites deliverables and results.