Conduct Exit Interviews
These inquiries enable you to become a better boss.
JERRY HAYES , O.D.
Employee departures tend to fall into two general categories; desirable and undesirable. Sometimes we get lucky, and a person we want to get rid of decides to move on before we have to fire her. Sometimes an employee who we consider to be very valuable turns in a surprise resignation for unknown reasons— those hurt. However, in both cases, it pays to conduct an exit interview. As an enlightened employer, you really want to know what an employee thinks of the work environment in your office. The idea is to get feedback that will help you make your practice an even better place to work.
Negative feedback is ok
Like you, I’m not necessarily excited about negative feedback. But you stand to learn a lot from a truly disgruntled employee. If you have an unhappy or weak employee, it often means that you made a mistake in either the hiring process or in this person’s management. Negative feedback is possibly more useful than positive feedback because even your best employees will have ideas for things on which you can improve. And, the least risky time for them to give that advice is on their way out.
Why are you leaving?
So, what’s the best way to get feedback? Request it in two forms: written and verbal. One option is to create a very simple, written questionnaire that has about four to five questions, such as:
• Did the job fail to meet your expectations in any areas? If so, please explain.
• Did you feel your duties were clearly communicated to you?
• Did you feel your boss and coworkers treated you in a courteous and professional manner?
• Please list any things you think we should do to improve the work environment or job conditions in this office. After the departing staff member has written down her thoughts, you or someone on your staff can interview the person. The obvious disadvantage to interviewing someone you already know is that you’ll rarely get totally honest feedback. Smart employees don’t want to burn bridges. For that reason, it’s usually better to hire an outsider to conduct your exit interviews. The role of the interviewer isn’t to defend the practice against complaints. It’s to listen and take notes. Your local clinical psychologist and family counselor are professionals at letting people talk about their feelings and experiences, regardless of whether they specialize in labor issues. They’re also very affordable for one- to two-hour assignments such as this. Of course, you can expect to get some zingers, especially if someone is leaving on bad terms. But again, those employees are the ones that’ll often teach you the most. And, giving that person a chance to feel heard usually dramatically improves how she feels about your practice and you as an employer.
Feedback will make you better
If you rarely have turnover, you’re doing a great job. But, if you lose employees on a regular basis, there’s probably a reason. And, the best way to find out is to ask employees why they’re going to work somewhere else. You may not always like the answers, but they’ll help you become a better boss. That’s because people management is one business skill you really can get better at with time, if you are willing to work at it.
Optometric Management, Issue: March 2007