When you graduated and all your friends moved on to bigger and better things, you were excited for them. But it was still sad. It’s the same in your organization. Even if you know an employee is moving on to better opportunities, it’s still not fun to have to go through exit procedures with them. And when their termination isn’t voluntary, it can be even worse. It’s not fun for anyone when an employee chooses or is asked to leave the company. But here are some tips to make employee exit procedures better in the long and short term.
1. Remember: Off-boarding is just as important as onboarding is. At least in some aspects, particularly the organization’s reputation. It’s not difficult for employees to share their experience, and the last impression you leave will likely be the experience they share. Consider this: In November of 2015 there were ten million company reviews on Glassdoor. And those reviews aren’t just from current employees and interviewees. Former employees often leave reviews too. And considering that the average company rating is 3.3 out of 5 and average CEO approval rating is 66 percent, it looks like we could improve employee experience a bit. And don’t forget about old-fashioned review methods: word of mouth. Your ex-employees have friends. And if your off-boarding process simply involves a kick to the curb, their friends are likely to hear about it. Which means those friends probably won’t apply for jobs at your company. So, be sure that even the very last employee touch points are as positive as possible—they’ll have a big impact on your employer branding.
2. Document opportunities for change. It shouldn’t come as a surprise for most employees when they’re terminated. Your organization should make it perfectly clear to employees when their performance or behavior needs to change and have an outlined process of what steps will be taken to review whether or not those changes are happening—for instance, three warnings before a termination. The first can outline what needs to change, a second warning is made if there is no improvement, and a final warning gives employees a distinct timeframe wherein if their behavior doesn’t improve, their employment will be terminated. Be sure to document the warning. Try typing up exactly what behaviors need to change, what number of warning you’re giving, the date of the warning, and any other stipulations made in the warning. Then after the verbal meeting where you give the warning, have the employee sign as an acknowledgment of the warning. Obviously, some behaviors warrant immediate termination, but if behavior can be remedied, your organization should, at least, try to save the employee. And when you’ve been working with them and there isn’t any improvement, they won’t be surprised when it’s time to go.
3. Make the most of the exit interview. There are plenty of ways to do an exit interview: Email a survey one week after the employee leaves the company, hire a third party company to call him or her, have a list of standard questions to ask in person, or simply have a casual (but still private) conversation before he or she leaves. Some are more personable, but doing any of them is better than doing nothing. Here’s what you can find out:
· Why employees are leaving (and if you can do anything to get them to stay). This can help you prevent other employees from leaving. In some instances, your exit interview could turn into a “stay” interview if you can make some reasonable changes and your organization would really like to keep the employees.
· What they liked about the company. It’s a good reminder for them and you of all the good stuff happening. And it’ll let you know what to keep doing.
· Could we have equipped you to do your job more effectively? This one is especially helpful for involuntary turnover. Employees might have suggestions that will help you save other underperformers. Ideally, these would come up during the warning phase, but if they don’t, you want to make sure you have the suggestions before employees leave.
· Anything else the employee wants to say. Make sure your employee feels they’ve said everything they need to. You’ll get valuable information from leaving employees that you likely won’t get from employees who want to maintain their job at the company.
Be sure to listen carefully so you don’t miss what employees are expressing (and so you can ask deeper questions to really understand). Let employees know that what they say is confidential (except for anything they share that might require action against another employee) so they’ll be more open. Go into your exit interview with a plan, and you’ll be able to come out ready to improve the experience of future employees.
4. Check the boxes. Hopefully, your IT department keeps track of all the equipment each employee is issued. That list will be helpful as you check all the equipment back in. Also, get security badges and be sure to change the passwords to accounts they have access to. You should also discuss any employment agreements like non-competes and non-disclosures. Forgetting to check those items off can result in big costs for your company like lost computers or compromised information. Also, do everything you can to help employees make a smooth transition. This includes giving them information about accessing their 401k and getting COBRA insurance. Make sure you check all the boxes so you have nothing to worry about and the transition is as smooth as possible. (You might even consider making a to-do list so you don’t forget anything.)
Although it’s far less exciting than bringing on someone new, it’s just as important to your reputation to off-board well as it is to onboard well. Do everything you can to make sure terminations aren’t surprises. Find out valuable information in exit interviews, and check all the boxes to make sure you have everything you need and they have everything they need. Having a defined exit plan for employees makes things easier (and fair) to everyone.