Employee Separation - the Postmortem and What it Teaches Us


"Of all talent-management processes, a strategic exit interview program—one that is designed to yield ongoing, long-term benefits—may be one of the most powerful yet least understood." -Harvard Business Review

As an HR specialist, one of the roles assigned to me was employee separation. This is a process which gave me a completely different perspective on talent management. My colleagues used to say it is ironic that the employee separation process is conducted by the same person who takes care of employee on-boarding. To me it felt like the responsible thing to do to say goodbye in the right way, since I was the first to welcome them to the company, like completion of a cycle.

My boss was very particular about the separation process and would dedicate time to meticulously go through the notes on the exit interview; in fact, we used to have meetings scheduled exclusively to discuss the exit interviews of each of the employees. It was like a postmortem process. In most of the cases, the treating doctors would know what had happened to the patient. But in some cases, there can be underlying and unexplained reasons which will be revealed only by careful dissection and deeper analysis.The immediate manager (i.e treating doctor) can provide meaningful insight into the employee's life at work. Combine this with the data from exit procedures and you will get a clearer picture on what exactly has happened. Needless to say, this information is a powerful retention weapon in your arsenal. Here is how you can wield this weapon:
  • Feedback source: It can be guaranteed that the feedback provided by the employee on notice period will be honest. They will be frank and bold. They will have a clear idea on what is going on internally since they have been with the company for some time. Care must be taken to ensure that the feedback is shared with the right person and meaningful action is taken to prevent resignations due to similar reasons.
  • Evaluation of company policies and procedures: Do you want to know what the employees actually think about the new work from home policy or dress code policy? Best option is to ask the employee in the notice period. You will be surprised to find that the answer could be different from the anonymous internal survey you conducted. Handled well, employee off-boarding can be an excellent resource to understand how employees feel about the company culture, policies and procedures. It can also throw insight into how your competition is faring on various aspects including compensation, leave/vacation policy and other benefits.
  • Management style: A very common answer for the reason for exit is "got better offer."But if you dig deeper, it will be clear that money alone is not the reason why one chooses to leave the company. Employees leave their bosses, not the company. Most of the time, the precise reason can be identified from an exit interview. The following questions can be pointers for the separation discussion:

          -Was the employee given opportunities for learning? Was necessary training given

           to perform the job?

          -Was the job challenging?

          -Were there any conflicts and how were they handled?

          -Did the employee feel recognized and rewarded at work?

          -Was timely performance feedback given?

          -Did the company meet employee's expectations?

          -Did he/she feel overly stressed at work?

          -Was there micromanagement?

          -Was there a lack of guidance?

  • Invite suggestions and ideas:

An employee once told me that he would have considered staying back if the exit interview was conducted earlier and not on the last week of his notice period. It was such an eye-opening remark which led us to set an internal timeline to conduct the exit interview within seven working days of the resignation date (notice period was 60 days). This is just one example. Employees have given suggestions on how to improve the training session, how to engage employees more effectively, and even project ideas for training fresh graduates. Exiting employees can give awesome suggestions if asked nicely. It's all about how you treat them. Treat them with respect and dignity, show that their opinions matter, even if they are leaving. Keep in mind that they have been with the company for a while and have a better idea of what is happening on the floor than you. 

Ex-employees are your brand ambassadors. Their separation process should be so smooth that they cannot stop talking positively about your company where ever they go. In fact, they should feel like coming back to the company sooner rather than later (if rehire is an option). Remember, your future candidate might be the new colleague of your ex-employee. 
Originally posted on Serendipity of Life.
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