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July 27, 2020

Exit interviews

Opinion

July 27, 2020

During the course of their job, managers have to interact with several outsiders besides their subordinates, peers and bosses.

Who these outside interfaces are depends upon the discipline the manager is pursuing with the organization. Managers in the human resources function have to deal with employees from other departments, service providers and outside lawyers and consultants. Their most critical internal interface is with the workers’ union.

Marketing and sales personnel have to interact with the customers, dealers and owners of departmental stores. Those in finance interact with the accounting firms, tax consultants and officials from the government’s revenue boards.

Purchase managers deal with suppliers, distributors and manufacturers. Managers at the middle level in manufacturing have least interaction with outsiders. When the need arises, they seek help from other departments. For instance, if government inspectors make some observations relating to plant machinery and equipment or work environment in general, the issues so pointed out are resolved in coordination with managers concerned in manufacturing and HR. It is the latter who respond on behalf of manufacturing and handle prosecution if inspectors take the matter to court.

Public affairs not only protect the company’s image but also endeavour to build it further by maintaining an amicable relationship with the prominent newspapers and social media. As security services are mostly outsourced to security companies, few officers employed directly by the organizations have to liaise with them constantly to ensure their effectiveness.

One common factor among the above-mentioned departments is that all of them have to deal with a plethora of government officials, most of whom have a tendency to become highly unreasonable.

The companies expect managers to interact with others and at the same time maintain or even improve working relationships with them on conclusion of the transaction. Some persons have a natural flare for dealing effectively with others, while a few learn via training.

Persons who consider their job stressful, spoiling the work-life balance or causing them health issues, may not have any option but to leave the job. There may be many other factors for high turnover but if the majority of employees within an organization are leaving for similar reasons, then its top management has to find out a solution and plan for employee retention.

In most progressive companies, there is a system of taking exit interviews of employees resigning for various reasons in the middle of their career. Employees whose services have been terminated by management or who retire are not asked to go through such interviews. Exit interviews are quite different from those for employment or promotion, as the separating employee has no inhibition or constraint in expressing their views about the organization candidly.

At the outset, the individual taking the exit interview should explain to the departing employee about the purpose of the exercise and make them feel comfortable. It is an opportunity for the latter to provide helpful feedback and perhaps be a whistleblower, enabling the management to make some positive change, which could benefit his/her soon-to-be former colleagues. Its purpose will be lost if he/she makes it a venting session by just criticizing the company’s systems, HR policies and the superiors.

The majority of employees called for exit interviews consider it as an opportunity to narrate all their grievances, which they did not disclose during the job. The interviewer should guide them to remain calm, constructive and stick to the facts. They should explain the reason for leaving. Rather than thinking of this as ‘telling on’ anyone, they must consider it as shining a light on a problem to be solved.

The employee being interviewed should make clear what was positive about his/her experience etc. Managements of companies hold periodical meetings in order to review actions – based on observations in general of separating employees during the exit interviews. If some of them have complained about the behaviour of a certain senior manager, the top management needs to investigate and take appropriate action if the allegations are found to be true.

When I worked for Exxon Chemical Pakistan Ltd at Daharki, in the mid 1970s, the turnover of both management and non-management was high, although the company was one of the best paymasters in Pakistan. It could not increase the salary levels further as the attrition was mostly to Saudi Arabia’s unparalleled industrial giants Safco and Aramco. Consequently, the company increased the intake of trade apprentices and management trainees to counter the exodus.

More companies should adopt the system of exit interviews, which is an effective way of knowing a company’s areas for improvement.

The writer is an industrial relations professional and teaches labour welfare laws at IBA.

Email: [email protected]