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Businesses spend a great deal of time and energy recruiting, training and developing their employees, so it is unfortunate when one (or several!) choose to leave the company. Not only does the business effectively lose their investment in training and developing these staff members, but they could also potentially lose a valuable employee in a critical position. It’s easy to see that this is a problem for any business – what isn’t clear however, is how to prevent it from happening.

While you may not be able to convince a resigning employee to stay, conducting an exit interview with them may help to prevent future resignations from other staff members. Exit interviews play a vital role in the retention process of an organisation as they give you information that can be used to improve the people processes in your business. We all know that people leave their jobs for many reasons but an exit interview can help you to fully understand their reasons.

In a recent Labour Mobility survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it was found that 3 in 5 people left their last job voluntarily, with 68% of these people having worked for their employer or business for one year or more.

Furthermore, what is concerning is that over half of those who voluntarily ceased their employment did so because of reasons within their employer’s control – 53% of employees left to obtain better working conditions.

Knowing that over half of all employee resignations can be prevented, surely many businesses must conduct exit interviews to find out how they can improve their workplace? Research by The Interview Group found that although 92% of businesses in Australia and New Zealand conduct exit interviews in some form, most struggle with the process, with just 15% of businesses agreeing that they receive maximum value from the process.

Conducting an exit interview or meeting can be easy and has potential to deliver great value to your business for future employees. Here are the steps we recommend you follow in conducting an exit interview:

Step 1: Set the tone for the meeting. Do not attend the meeting as a staunch defender of the business’ culture or as an insulted boss.

Step 2: Informally outline the agenda/purpose for the exit meeting so everyone knows what will happen next. “Hi Joe, Thanks for meeting with me today. I respect your decision to leave XYZ and I’ve really enjoyed the 18 months you’ve been in the business. I value your opinion, so I was hoping we could have an honest chat and you could provide me with some feedback about working in the business as I’m always looking to improve the conditions for my employees.”

Step 3: Review the reason why the employee is leaving. For example, read the letter of resignation aloud. Ask for the employee to explain his/her thoughts leading up to making that decision. Were there any factors you could have influenced/changed?

Step 4: Give the employee plenty of opportunities to ask questions, but don’t prolong the process more than necessary. Keep the conversation light, smile, laugh and joke and put the employee at ease. Continue to affirm and encourage their decision to ensure they feel welcome to return should they change their mind.

Step 5: Ask the employee if they have any questions or points they need clarifying before they leave in relation to ‘end of employment matters’. They may want to ask about their last pay packet, notice periods, expenses, severance pay, holiday pay etc. By discussing this openly, it reduces the likelihood of any claims being lodged against the business after the employee has left.

Step 6: Finally, ensure you preserve your business’ brand and reputation at all times – smile and thank them for their valuable opinion and feedback and wish them all the best in their future.

An important tip to follow throughout the meeting is to leave your emotions at the door because you will likely receive feedback that may be negative. This is the point of an exit interview! Remember, this process is purely a fact gathering mission and you can choose later if anything you have gathered can greatly help or improve the business.

About the Author:

Paula Maidens is Managing Director of Recruitment Coach, a unique HR coaching and consulting firm for small-medium businesses.