When one of your employees leaves by choice or force, it’s important to conduct an exit interview to examine why the separation had to occur. In this article, we’ll coach you through the key aspects of exit interviews and how you can avoid any problems that are revealed in the future.
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is a meeting that includes the owner or manager, an HR representative, and the employee exiting the business. During this meeting, the employee will talk about their reasons for wanting to exit—or their take on the problems leading to their termination. Owners, managers, and HR representatives also play a role: They can ask questions and offer resources to help ease the employee’s transition away from the business.
How do I conduct an exit interview for someone resigning from my business?
Schedule time on your employee’s last day to meet and discuss their time working at your business. Tell your employee in advance what you hope to discuss to give them time to process what they want to say.
Some pros recommend holding the interview offsite (at a café or coffee shop) to keep the conversation informal and encourage candid conversations.
During the meeting, you should allow the employee to do most of the talking. You can ask questions or direct the conversation toward the points you want to cover, but you shouldn’t spend your time together defending your business or its practices. Instead, your objective is to learn what this employee—and perhaps others in your business—feel about the time they spend there.
Take notes. Then, reflect on them after your meeting. By doing so, you might find opportunities to introduce changes that could boost the morale of your workplace.
What kinds of questions can I ask?
The following questions often work well in exit interviews:
What did you enjoy about working here?
What was the most challenging part of the work you performed?
Did you receive the training opportunities you needed to do your job well?
What would have made your team more effective?
What would you have wanted the company to do differently during your time here?
Did you have the support you needed from your team and manager to succeed?
What would you have needed to stay?
How do I handle an exit interview with a person who is being terminated from their roles?
Terminations require a different tack. To start, you won’t provide advanced notice that the meeting is taking place or a list of the items you’ll discuss. Instead, you’ll meet to inform your employee that they are being terminated from the role and provide your rationale.
What’s important is that you are clear and direct about the reason for your employee’s termination. Here, you might talk about performance, conflicts, attendance issues, or other matters that impeded their work or the success of the business.
Termination shouldn’t come as a surprise to your employees. In the weeks or months leading up to it, you should have provided feedback, performance plans, or disciplinary actions, following the methods laid out in your employee handbook.
Still, termination meetings can be emotional for the person being let go. Some will stay silent, but many will have things they’ll want to tell you in the moment. Take notes on any problems departing employees reveal. Then, look into matters they mention to ensure problems don’t linger after their departure.
Termination meetings should include the same three personnel—the owner or manager, the HR representative, and the employee—but it can also be beneficial to include the employee’s direct supervisor, especially if that person was the one to oversee the steps leading to termination.
In this type of exit interview, you and your team will do most of the talking in this meeting. Your talking points will include:
- Why the employee is leaving the organization
- The effective date of the termination
- Requests for company property the employee holds, including office keys or badges, company credit cards, parking passes, or cell phones
- The date on which your employee will receive their final paycheck and, if applicable, retirement plan deposit
- An explanation of COBRA, if you must offer it to your employee, or instructions on how to access health care through the healthcare exchange
You must also provide your employee with a document confirming their separation from your business. Be sure to have your employee sign a copy of a document covering each of these topics and keep it for your records.
|You can download a boilerplate termination agreement from Law Depot.|
What should I do if my business doesn’t have an HR representative?
If possible, avoid handling exit interviews without an HR professional's help. If you don't have an HR manager on staff, you can work with an outsourced team or hire a fractional HR manager who can provide services to your business each week or month for a flat rate or work on a per-project basis. Here, you'll find some popular options:
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