How does your company treat employees who are resigning? From the moment of the official “Letter of Resignation” to the actual separation date, what process does your HR department follow to ensure a smooth transition? Does your HR department, like many, use a standardized, “check the boxes” approach to expedite the exit process? There are solid reasons for this approach. After all, employee separations are emotional, running a risk of situations that can increase potential issues, legal or otherwise. Standardized separation processes protect companies from problems that might ensue; however, this protection limits the informative and possibly valuable feedback that could be conveyed. Valuable feedback comes from having an opportunity to have a comprehensive and honest conversation regarding how a company can improve.
Companies that take time to understand the fundamental reasons for resignation are able to transform flaws into improvement for continued growth while fostering loyalty among current and former employees. Former employees, therefore, become positive ambassadors for the company. Having been through this thorough exit interview process early in my career, I am still proud of the time I spent at Ernst & Young (EY). Due to this, I continue to spread the excellent experience I had with EY in my interactions with others. Maintaining strong and positive ties with companies and people is essential for success in all areas.
Enhance the Separation Process
Small tweaks are all that is needed to yield powerful results. Asking more questions rather than issuing statements can provide informative feedback. As this article explains, Patagonia has a unique process that the author, Lila MacLellan, likens to a corporate form of conscious uncoupling. If an employee decides to leave Patagonia, that employee will speak with the chief human resources officer. The officer makes sure to speak to the relatively few employees that express an interest in leaving. Importantly, the officer begins conversations with employees interested in parting ways by asking questions that help gain an understanding of why the employee came to Patagonia initially.
Active listening after asking questions is essential as well. By being genuinely engaged in the responses of soon-to-be-former employees, a real understanding of the deep-rooted reasons for separation is communicated. Active listening allows for an understanding of valuable suggestions, concerns, and overall feedback that may not have been easily understood before. Finally, building bridges with departing employees may result in future growth. Building bridges often results in connections to new companies that might stimulate favorable results for all. Building bridges means maintaining invites to a non-company sponsored meet-up or company-sponsored alumni meet-ups/events.
Implementing any of the above changes will most likely create a virtuous circle that benefits employers and all former or current employees alike. Having the mindset that former employees can act as ambassadors will most likely lead to favorable results in the long-run. As EY has recognized, treating former employees well pays off. It just takes that one employee who received a thorough exit interview to become your next best customer.
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