One of your best employees just quit. You’re shocked. Blindsided. How could another company offer something better than what you have? You’ll never know unless you ask.

Losing an employee, no matter the circumstances, can be difficult to accept – especially for small businesses with limited staff as it is. The problem is that employees are often reluctant to be transparent about the issues they are having with their employer. That’s why exit interviews are so important; a person has much less to lose when they are no longer employed.

If you’ve never conducted these interviews before, here’s a general outline of how the process should work. Your small business may not have all of these roles, but use these steps from ThinkHR (who powers our HR Advisory product) as a loose guideline.

  • First, the supervisor would notify whomever handles your HR that the employee is terminating or transferring to another department. Then, the supervisor should encourage that employee to complete a questionnaire (simply a document with appropriate questions) and schedule an exit interview.
  • Your HR manager would then send the appropriate questionnaire to the employee and set up a time for the exit interview. During the interview, they would discuss information gathered from the questionnaire and any other relevant topics. The questionnaire should be placed in a confidential department file.
  • As for the employee, he or she would need to complete the questionnaire and coordinate with HR for setting up the exit interview.

To see an example of the questionnaire mentioned, click here.

Because there is so much fear about coming forward with issues while employed, the exit interview is sometimes the best chance to get information. Here are a few things that our SVP of Human Resources, Jamie Press, suggests in order to obtain the most valuable information.

3 key points to a successful exit interview.

  1. Conduct a truly anonymous exit survey to elicit honest feedback (both positive and negative).
  2. Call the termed employee a few days to a week after they exit to try to learn as much as possible about the employee’s experience. A phone call is less confrontational and intimidating than an in-person meeting. The termed employee is in a more comfortable place physically (on their own “turf”) and has had a bit of time to reflect and collect their thoughts.
  3. Keep the conversation positive by letting the termed employee know that that the only purpose of soliciting the information is to try to make improvements at the company, not to get anyone in trouble. In fact, at PrimePay, we let the employee know that the information will not be shared with their manager.

Press goes on to explain how you can use the information collected from the employee.

The information collected can be used to find patterns and trends (ex. what do most people think about our benefits compared to other companies?) in order to help shape decision-making in the future. For us, it helps to understand the company’s strengths and weaknesses. We can help determine areas for management training or if there are particular parts of the business with on-going problems that need to be addressed. If there are particular employee-related issues, those can be examined as well.

Undoubtedly the exit interview puts you in a vulnerable position as well. It’s not always easy to hear about the things that aren’t so great with your small business. On the flip side, some of the positive aspects you learn from the exit interview deserve to be recognized and potentially highlighted in areas like job descriptions for future employees. If you’re truly looking to grow your business and foster a culture that you’re proud of, you really won’t know if you’re on the right track until you ask.

Need help with sensitive HR topics like the exit interview? You’ll find all kinds of checklists and guidance from our HR Advisory services. PrimePay clients get our base solution for free. Upgrade to the advanced solution for only $25/month and get access to a variety of resources. Click here to learn more or fill out the form below!