Learn From the Employees Who Leave You

Learn From the Employees Who Leave You
Posted in: Management

Do you get great ideas from the employees voluntarily leaving your organization or team? If you don’t, you should start.

After people give notice, they’re frequently labeled “checked out” and aren’t expected or asked to create value. This is a mistake. We found that departing employees often provided great feedback; they were open and direct about suggesting opportunities to improve.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical when I first heard this, but I quickly saw that we received very thoughtful and helpful feedback. One departing employee actually taught me more about running our creative department than I had learned in the previous year from everyone in the department combined. As management saw how much value the exit interview process provided, each of us incorporated our own additions.

Here’s the process I used:

If someone who was leaving reported to me, I’d take her to lunch. I’d thank her for her contributions and tell her how happy I was that she had found a great opportunity. I’d also tell her that some of our best advice has come from departing employees who point out things that don’t work so well. I’d ask if she saw any opportunities for us to improve. I’d ask why she decided to leave, figuring that the reasons she gave might help us retain other employees. I usually learned a lot. I also made it clear that I wanted to keep the door open – after all, if we were lucky, she’d come back to work for us sometime or become a client.

Since people will often share more with someone who isn’t their boss, we also had a trusted HR person conduct interviews with everyone who left. We allowed employees to choose whether or not their feedback would remain anonymous. If people chose to be anonymous, we’d wait for a few employees to leave before sharing exit interviews, so it wouldn’t be clear who had made which suggestions. Surprisingly, most people didn’t care about anonymity. They were happy we asked their opinions.

If you take exit interviews seriously rather than as just a formality (or start conducting exit interviews if you aren’t already), your departing team members could become a great resource for improving your business

How do you leverage departing employees? What’s worked for you?

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