When valued employees leave a business, most companies have some sort of ritual sendoff. Perhaps it's an office party, or lunch with the boss.
It's not always that way for companies that are struggling, and such celebrations could strike a discordant note when downsizing or restructuring prompts the departure.
In these situations, another step in the departure process, the exit interview, can become even more difficult.
Companies that take exit interviews seriously use them to determine areas where the business can improve its procedures, to gather information about employee characteristics that can be helpful in recruiting new employees, and to give departing employees a positive feeling for the company as they transition into their new life.
Those objectives are relatively easy to achieve when a company is running smoothly but become a challenge during a downsizing or restructuring. After all, businesses become distressed when leaders fail to plan, cannot operate efficiently and fail to react quickly to challenges. A management that can't run a business well isn't likely to handle the exit process well either.
Often the departures are emotional, as any remaining positive relationships become frayed, as managers realize they delayed too long in conveying the bad news, as employees struggle to understand why their job, and not someone else’s, is being cut, as everyone wonders what might have been done differently to have prevented this outcome.
It could have been done better, but how?
First, good communication between management and employees becomes more crucial in bad times than when things are going well. If everyone has an understanding of the problems the business is facing, it becomes less of a shock for employees to accept the reality that some jobs, including their own, might be eliminated.
Second, just as companies improve their hiring by standardizing their preliminary screening and the interview process, so should they standardize procedures for managing exit interviews.
The procedure typically has two parts: a discussion about the employee’s experience with the company and a meeting to discuss retirement or severance packages, insurance and any services provided as part of the separation. In larger companies, specialists in the human resources department handle these interviews, but that is not always the case.
With smaller companies, it is sometimes more productive for a supervisor, preferably a supervisor one level above the employee's manager, to handle the discussion about the employee's experiences. Another option is to entrust this task to a mentor or coach who has the respect of the departing employee.
While those options are the most common, in a distressed business I strongly recommend that the company's top leadership participate as well. A valued employee whose services are being terminated deserves some direct acknowledgement that failings in management led to this situation. READ MORE
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