Exit the ‘exit interview’ ?

You have decided to leave the company to pursue your goals, you have sounded out the management, you have handed over your resignation letter, you have completed the handing over formalities to your successor and today is your last day in the company. You are now waiting for your ‘full and final’ (F&F) settlement and then…. you get a call from someone in HR to meet for an ‘exit’ interview. Sounds familiar? This may sound dramatic, but variations of the same typically play out in many organizations all over, every day.

So, how should an organization conduct this whole exit interview process to ensure that it benefits the organization and, hopefully, leaves the outgoing employee with a positive feeling about the organization? Remember, every outgoing (especially senior level) employee is a potential (and unpaid!) brand ambassador for the organization!

The exit interview is a great opportunity given to an organization to identify key factors which may be contributing to employee turnover and, if properly executed, can yield a veritable treasure trove of inputs to it’s top management. This may include inputs on employee perception, quality of induction of new staff, effectiveness of appraisal and training systems besides operational issues. It thus affords an organisation to gain unique perspectives and (mostly) genuine feedback.In other words, it holds a mirror to the ‘organisational face’.
Best of all-it is quick and free!

With so much riding on it, why then is the exit interview not given the importance it merits? Related question, what must an organisation do to derive maximum benefit from the process, while at the same time leaving the outgoing employee with pleasant feelings about the company she/he has just quit?

The sad reality is that the exit interview process has become a mere formality conducted by HR before the F&F settlement. The very fact that it is conducted before the F&F settlement ensures that the outgoing employee will be extremely guarded in the responses. After all, who would want to jeopardize the settlement? Thus there is an unstated, implied threat looming large before the outgoing employee, which will ensure that the whole process is reduced to a sham, a farce and to mere tokenisms. I leave it to the reader’s imagination as to what happens to such exit interview reports!

Why is this so? Could it be because of the insecurity of the line manager and/or the concerned HR manager who may have a vested interest in ensuring that honest feedback does not reach the top management? So we now have this elegant ruse of conducting an exit interview with no intention to take any corrective action whatsoever!

Is there a remedy? Of course there is!

By following these simple steps the top management of an organization can ensure that it gets the full benefit of the exit interview process:

  • Ensure that the exit interview is conducted after the F&F formalities are completed. The outgoing employee’s mind is free of that tension and will voice his/her views freely.
  • Ensure that the exit interview is conducted by a neutral person-not by the immediate boss or by concerned HR-but by someone sufficiently senior from the top management who has the authority to initiate remedial action where warranted. This will also ensure objectivity.
  • Ensure that top management reviews every exit interview report.
  • Ensure consistency and rigor by following basic guidelines and processes.

 

By consistently adhering to the  above, the management of an organisation will ensure that the exit interview process gains credibility by sheer word of mouth! When outgoing employees talk highly of the exit process and existing employees see incremental positive changes happening, a positive correlation will be automatically established!