EXIT INTERVIEWS – DON’T MISS THE OPPORTUNITY

It’s one thing if you are running a Hot Dog stand across the street from a college.  You realize that pretty much anyone working for you is not going to spend fifty years with you and retire with a gold watch.  Turnover is to be expected.  I’m going to assume as a controller you are involved in a fairly large organization.  Today, as you well know, employees (and you too) are performing a lot more tasks and expected to do much more than in past years when labor was so much cheaper.

I recently spent 13+ years as controller with a fairly large accounting staff.  One thing stood out.  There was a steep learning curve for every new employee on the staff and for me as well.  It took over three years on the job for me to start feeling comfortable with what I was doing.

When an employee decides to resign, you, as Controller, will probably not be the first one to know this (even if the employee tells you that).  Most likely the employee has become dissastified (even disgruntled) and has decided to seek another job.  Generally, by the time you find out,  it’s already well known on the grapevine at your office.   For that reason alone, you should try to keep an open door policy where your staff members feel comfortable coming to you with a problem.    Losing a  trained employee does impact you as the Controller.  Your boss (CFO, Owner, etc) is not going to be the one doing the training, coaching, mentoring  required to get the new employee up and running.  You are.

When an employee leaves, it requires a ‘root cause’ analysis.  Why after all the training, pay, benefits, bonuses, etc. is this employee unhappy enough to leave.  Do not let them get away without someone performing an EXIT Interview.  In some companies, HR may conduct that interview.  This is really unnerving to a lot of managers because they have no idea what the employee will say.  I would hope that HR would share this information with you, in total.  Let’s remember, some employees do have built in issues with authority figures.  I’ve run into a few  and eventually, they leave for supervisory positions if they can find one.

If you are allowed to conduct the EXIT interview, here are some of the questions I would ask:

  • What issues have led you to the decision to leave?
  • Were you offered this job or did you actively seek a new job?
  • Were you uncomfortable coming to me to ask for a raise?
  • How would you rate your training for the job you held?
  • How would you describe your working relationship with your co-workers?
  • Were you sufficiently challenged in your job or were you bored?
  • Were you overloaded with work or did you feel you were underutilized?
  • Did I provide you with enough feedback about how you were doing?
  • Did you have the resources you needed to do your job?

Painful as it might be, you need to gather as much information as you can to find that ‘root cause’ even if by chance, you might be part of the problem.

I wonder how many of you have been able to make a counteroffer and if you were able to, did you?  Unfortunately, countering with more money is a double-edged sword.  The employee is temporarily happy but they are going to wonder if you could pay them more, why did they have to threaten to quit to get a raise.  Has your trust diminished in that employee.  Will they threaten to leave again?  I’m not sure.  Every case is different.

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