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Sweeping Employee Training and Management

Employee Exit Procedures and Guidelines

Even when you've done everything possible to reduce turnover, a fact of business life is that you will have employees leaving your company. Here are some guidelines for what to do in that circumstance.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Employees Leave It is important that you have a standard procedure in place for when an employee leaves your employ. This should include what is known as an 'exit interview.' in addition to a verbal, face-to-face interview with your departing employee, most professionals will advise using some sort of 'Exit Questionnaire.' (You will find one linked at the bottom of this article.)

A wide array of value can be obtained during the exit interview process. One management goal should most certainly be to get to the bottom of why the employee is leaving, if they are doing so voluntarily. It is also an opportunity for you to learn information that will enable transfer of knowledge and experience from the departing employee to a successor or replacement.

A good exit interview may also reveal useful information about your organization, your management and work team, the working environment, company processes and systems, etc. You will find that a well-conducted exit interview can provide a current snapshot of your company, including revealing information about relationships within your staff as well as with suppliers, customers and others.

Although it takes time, a certain degree of organization and you will be exposing yourself to potential negatives about your company, do not ignore the opportunity that exit interviews offer. They are a unique chance to survey and analyze the opinions of departing employees, who are often more forthcoming, constructive and objective then you will hear from employees who are still on the job. When they leave your employ, departing employees are liberated and as such often provide a rich source of objective feedback.

Exit interviews also give your departing employee an opportunity to provide you with constructive feedback and to leave on a positive note and with mutual respect. Try to avoid having recrimination, blame, despite, etc. as part of your exit interview process. When you conduct an exit interview do your best to remain calm, objective, fair and – if the situation warrants – as helpful as possible to the departing employee's future.

The time between when an employee makes a decision to leave and their actual departure date provides a crucial opportunity for you to gather information and knowledge from the employee. This is especially true where an employee has accumulated a significant amount of knowledge and/or company connections.

Whenever an employee resigns or you have made the decision to terminate them, always ask yourself "Do we need to invest time in some sort of knowledge transfer prior to when they are gone?" Even low level employees will often have information that is useful to the organization. Moreover, most departing employees will gladly share this knowledge in order to help the successor or to help train others, if asked politely to do so.

Exit interviews also provide a number of other positive possible outcomes for your company going forward into the future. These include:

  • showing other employees your company is a caring organization
  • 'making peace' with disgruntled employees who might otherwise be vengeful
  • they provide proper HR practices and are seen as necessary for professional people management, which can come into play if an employee makes claims against the company at a later date
  • you learn valuable information about improving employee retention, as well as how to improve recruitment and orientation of new employees
  • sometimes an exit interview will result in retaining a valuable employee who otherwise would have left due to a misunderstanding

Although it is good practice to have a written component of your exit policy, it is important to conduct an exit interview face-to-face since that will allow you to have better communication, understanding and interpretation of the real reasons behind the employee's leaving.

However, it is equally important to have a written exit interview form. This provides you with a document you can keep on file for a later date, as well as prompts you to ask the same questions of each employee who leaves. This can prove valuable to show nondiscrimination as well as in uncovering information that you have learned is valuable to going forward in your replacement process.

I have linked below a sample exit interview questionnaire from You can download this public domain form as either a Microsoft Word file or as an Acrobat PDF file. I suggest you use the PDF file if you do not want to make modifications. The Microsoft Word file is provided so you can tailor the document to fit your exact needs. Neither document is being provided as a component of legal advice; if you believe the document should be reviewed by your attorney, please do so.

Ranger Kidwell-Ross is a graduate economist and editor of He may be reached via this email link or by calling (866) 635-2205.

This article was added to in June of 2011.

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