I was recently discussing the role exit interviews should have for employers with a group of HR professionals. Their focus had generally been on what the employer can learn from the departing employee and how this insight could improve the overall operation-side of the business.
In theory, I don’t disagree with having a genuine interest in obtaining feedback from the departing employee. But, I shared my view that a more defensive-minded approach to exit interviews is also needed. In fact, I previously wrote that employees are more disgruntled than ever according to various news sources.
Further, if the exit interview arises out of a termination situation, it is highly likely that meaningful feedback is not going to be provided.
An Employer’s Exit Interview Checklist
So from the view of a jaded pessimist ten plus year career as an employment lawyer, the following points are offered for consideration for a defensive-minded exit interview:
- Have a documented exit interview checklist. The reason for documenting such a checklist is so that exit interviews are consistently performed and the essentials are consistently covered. This point is underscored in The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (a great read), where the author notes “if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.” As demonstrated in the next point, the same principal applies to exit interviews.
- Building upon the preceding point, an exit interview should be carefully developed with management and an experienced employment lawyer. That development and process, however, should include an internal pre-interview assessment where company IT professionals confirm (i) There have been no unusual file transfers/increased email activity with large file attachments leaving the company; (ii) No USB drives installed on the departing employee’s computer with corresponding file transfers; (iii) All passwords and any “back doors” into the network have been closed. Failing to take any one of these steps may result in the employer later discovering that a disgruntled former employee has caused significant damage and destruction to the company network and data that could have otherwise been prevented.
- It is also a good idea to “remind” the departing employee of any continuing obligations under noncompete agreements and the like. Further, documenting this “reminder” may later prove to be a critical piece of evidence for an employer’s lawsuit and damages for violating a noncompete agreement.
Additional Employer & HR Resources for Conducting Exit Interviews
Contact Jason Shinn for more information about what to include in an exit interview as a means to protect confidential company. Also follow this link for information about investigating the theft of company information by departing employees.
And for Michigan HR professionals, please consider joining our LinkedIn Group, the Michigan HR Toolbox where these and other issues relevant to HR and employers are routinely discussed.