A formal process for managing the end of an employee’s lifecycle—off-boarding—plays a major part in improving talent retention. Lars Schmidt, Director of Talent Acquisition at NPR, says you should be doing more than just collecting data. “The organizations that get off-boarding right are able to capture feedback and make it actionable.”
From the day an employee announces his decision to leave, until you close their file for the last time, off-boarding is a process that can take weeks to complete. It should be more involved than a casual lunch on their last day (though this is a great gesture).
To uncover information that will help you identify opportunities for improvement in your organization’s process, structure and culture—and to wrap up any loose ends—off-boarding should include three main components:
Administrative. Questions addressing administrative, legal, and compliance items should be straightforward. Though goals for this portion of the interview will vary by employer, you should generally focus on:
- Recovering company property;
- Discussing severance pay and benefits options
- Reviewing non-disclosure and non-compete agreements
Strategic. Getting to the heart of an employee’s reasons often requires some digging. Spark constructive conversations by beginning with high-level question on these topics, and then peel back that onion with care:
- Are employees connected to the company culture? Is decision making aligned with company values?
- Are there things the company should change regarding compensation, succession planning, or work/life balance? Would those changes have persuaded the employee to stay?
Tactical. When handled effectively, off-boarding presents a great opportunity to gauge the efficacy of your everyday processes. In the case of employees being asked to leave, Schmidt says, “You want to get a sense of why things didn’t work out from the employee’s perspective. Maybe they weren’t in the right role. We, as employers, shouldn’t assume that fault is solely on the employee.” If you handle these situations with care, departing employees can provide some perspective on how the employer can recruit candidates that will be a better mutual fit.
Improvement Begins With Follow-Up
You can tune and tweak your exit interview to a point of unparalleled perfection, but your data is only useful if you’ll actually do something with it (funny how that works). As the VP of HR at Ticketmaster (prior to joining NPR), Schmidt revamped their off-boarding process to include online exit surveys via SurveyMonkey.
“Surprisingly,” says Schmidt, “it didn’t take that long to put together and roll out.” They converted existing exit interview survey templates and had employees assign numeric values to responses. Administrators could then hone-in on specific metrics—like the number of people leaving within their first 18 months or how many were leaving due to issues with management—and were able to identify trends and review the impact of changes in their process.
There was measurable value in being able to help the business and division heads understand turnover in their area. “We were able to tell people, ‘This is what your turnover looks like, this is why they’re leaving,’ and that was very helpful to them because they had visibility they didn’t have before,” Schmidt explained.
Close Chapters, but Don’t Burn Bridges
Though you wish it wasn’t so, good employees, star players, and weak performers alike will leave your company some day. Regardless of where an employee is going or why, Schmidt advises doing what you can to end things on a good note. “You want to maintain those ties, and oftentimes there are bounce-back employees.” Although you’ll definitely come across a bad apple from time to time, respect and professionalism will go a long way toward closing this chapter of an employee’s career on a positive note.
About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice, a company that reviews talent management and applicant tracking software. He blogs about technology, trends, and best practices in human resources and recruiting.