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Sit at the top table and eat the Breakfast of Champions

by Heat Recruitment


So, you’re busy working away and see an email pop up from one of your employee’s, asking you for a ‘quick word’.  After mulling over all the possible reasons they may have requested the meeting, you look down at the calendar and realise – payroll was processed yesterday!  It suddenly all becomes clear.  The dentist appointment they needed last week that was followed by the random days’ holiday they took on a Thursday.  You look over at them and see an unfamiliar look of nervousness on their face and that’s when you know for certain – They are going to hand in their notice!

So what do you do now?  You may feel let down, rejected even with a sudden desire to march them off the premises quick-sharp!

What most managers come to realise, however, is that this is just another part of business.  People move on, businesses move on, and actually, a certain level of attrition is a good thing for an organisation as it allows for fresh ideas and can help prevent a stagnant environment.

Now from time to time, there may even be the odd employee you were hoping would hand their notice in, and you’re happy to show them the door.  The challenge of a good manager, however, is to ensure they can retain the best people in the business to help drive it forward.

Ironically, losing one top employee can also help drastically reduce the chances of losing another – If you learn from the experience.  As famously quoted by Ken Blanchard “feedback is the breakfast of champions”, and if that’s the case, the Exit Interview has to be considered a ‘Full English’.


What is it?

The exit interview is a final meeting with the employee before they leave to ask specific questions relating to their time spent with the company.

What’s the point?

The exit interview can provide extremely valuable information and help to identify potential issues within the business you weren’t aware of as a manager.  Most importantly, the information provided could prove invaluable in helping prevent further employees leave the business, as well as improve company culture processes as a whole.

Whilst this can provide the platform for someone to potentially rant, you will find the feedback tends to be far more constructive and genuine, as, within reason, there is little for them to lose.



Who should conduct it?

NOT their manager.

If possible this would be someone from HR as you want to encourage the person to open up.  If they have an issue with their line manager, you want to know about it.  It’s unlikely the person will open up if the individual they have the problem with is the one asking questions.

It’s also quite likely that someone directly responsible for the individual could become quite defensive at the hint of any criticism, which really won’t help.  One of the key ingredients to achieving the ‘silver lining’ is to make sure you take stock and listen.

For many SME’s, having a dedicated person to handle HR and Personnel is a luxury they can’t afford, however that’s not a reason not to do an exit interview.  The chances are you will have friends or associates also in business who would be willing to do this for you (you could also offer it in return). A business mentor, a trusted member of staff or even a supplier (solicitor/accountant) could also be options.  Freelance HR professionals would be alternatives although there will be a cost.

What should I ask?

As you want to encourage the individual to talk freely, try to avoid asking too many closed questions.

Some examples could include:

  • What is the main reason you have decided to leave?
  • How would you describe the relationship with your manager?
  • How would you describe the relationship with your team?
  • What have you enjoyed about working here?
  • Were your training and development needs met? Was there any further training you would have liked to have received?
  • How could we improve working conditions?
  • What would you improve within the business?
  • If the situation was right, would you consider working for us again?

You may want to tailor questions in a bid to find out specific information about a particular aspect of the business or company culture.  Ultimately, the questions you ask all come down to what information you deem most valuable in helping make the business a success.

light-bulb-momentSome Final Tips

  1. Do your best to leave on a positive – regardless of the scenario. Don’t underestimate the influence the parting individual can have on the other employees around them, especially if they are sat in amongst them for the rest of their notice period.
  2. Having all the information is great, but unless you do something with it, it’s a pointless exercise. If something has been raised and it concerns you, it would be beneficial to get further feedback from other employees to identify whether it was an isolated issue with that employee.
  3. Encouraging regular feedback as part of your business culture can help address potential problems early on and rather than waiting for the exit interview. Ultimately prevention is better than cure.


Find out how we help your business throughout the recruitment process and how we work with employers by visiting our employers page