ONE of the most stressful aspects of running a business, no matter what kind, is having to deal with people and their problems. One of your employees might suddenly decide to resign from your business. This can become an emotional time, not always because you’ll miss them, but because of the bitterness or the mistrust that they leave behind.

There could be many reasons that an employee decides to leave, but employees are seldom honest about why they are really resigning. So, is interviewing a departing member of staff then simply a waste of time?

Joanne Barrett of Joanne’s Placements says it often depends on the relationship between the employee and employer, whether the employee may be willing to co-operate in an exit interview when leaving.

The interview can be useful in highlighting certain inept management practices and, as a result, reduce employee turnover.

Information gained from an interview with a departing employee can also be used to recruit a more suitable replacement and to address training needs in the workplace.

However, Barrett suggests that it might not always be a good idea to interview some departing employees because they might feel intimidated having to answer questions face-to-face.

Getting the employee to complete a quick form with general questions may be a better idea. Barrett says the questions should answer things like:


The nature of the relationship between the employee’s manager and colleagues.

How satisfied they felt in the job.

Whether they were unhappy about any of the business’s policies.

Whether they had any problem with the equipment they were tasked with using in the workplace.

Employees may still be afraid to answer questions honestly, because they may fear being stuck with a negative reference.

But Helene Hartwig of Lewyll Communications, an HR consultancy, says, legally-speaking, an employer is not supposed to provide a reference for anything outside of what appears on an employee’s certificate of service – the document employees are legally entitled to upon leaving your business.

But this won’t always calm employees who fear that prospective new employers might be able to get information from their ex-employers.

Hartwig suggests business owners conducting an interview, should aim to gather information from an employee, not to defend their standpoint.

She suggests holding an informal meeting with the employee in which they ask them questions such as what they would have done differently if given the opportunity to change anything in the business.

Should it be too stressful to keep the employee at the company while they work off their notice period, the business owner could ask that person to leave and pay them out for the remainder of their notice period.

Another way to ensure that you get results from an exit interview, is to get an outside party to host the interview. If a neutral party speaks with the employee you may get more honest answers.

Hermine Brink (pictured), an HR consultant at Danshaw Professional Employer’s Organisation, conducts exit interviews on behalf of businesses that outsource their HR functions to the organisation.

She says she doesn’t ask structured questions beforehand, but determines these from meeting with the employee.