Staff Management

Employee Exit Interview: How & Why to Do It

By Scott Huffer, OD

Feb. 28, 2018

When employees leave, it’s a challenge filling their role and training a replacement, but it’s also a learning opportunity. You have a chance to find out why the employee is leaving, and how you can make your office a better place to work, so other valuable employees don’t also leave.

Improve to Avoid Losing Others
Our five-OD, one-MD, 27-support staff practice has
low employee turnover and strives to maintain this level of employee retention. It is important that we provide a good place to work. Sometimes when employees leave it is because we have fallen short of this goal, and it is an important time to evaluate if things could have been done differently.

For example, exit interviews have taught us to better manage the time of our optical staff. An optician who left to pursue another job role suggested assigned duties per optician on any given day. We tried his idea, and it has allowed us to keep more opticians on the floor at any given time.

We learned from another departing employee that our expectations for our part-time front desk employees were a too high, at least for the people in those roles in the past. We have found ways to simplify insurance practices, and it has helped our new employees.

Sometimes an employee simply leaves to make more money. One of our employees took a job earning significantly more money in another field. It was a case of money and hours for that particular employee. Her feedback to our questions was that she needed to do what was best for her and her family. We responded by letting her know we felt we were lucky to have her, and that we wished her luck in her future endeavors. It’s important not to automatically raise the pay level for a position if an employee leaves for more money. As in this case, you may be paying an appropriate amount for the position in your field, and the employee ends up leaving the industry to earn more.

Mostly we are told we have a wonderful work environment and a nice family atmosphere. Most employees who have left did so due to relocations or job opportunities closer to where they live.

We only conduct exit interviews with employees who are leaving voluntarily since we already know why the employees we have terminated are leaving.

Set Up a Format for Interview
Our exit interviews are conducted informally as near to the end of employment as possible, usually over a meal at a local restaurant. It is conducted by at least two of the doctors and our practice manager. We generally plan for 1-2 hours.

Key questions we ask include: How did you come to the decision to leave the office? Are there things you would change in the day-to-day operations of your department ? Is there anything we could have done to make you happier in your role with our office?

As the person, or people, conducting the interview, it is important to mostly stay quiet. If you try to justify your previous actions, or decisions, it can come across as confrontational, and this will limit your ability to get more information out of the departing employee. The idea here is to talk as little as possible and listen as much as possible.

Have Out-Going Employee Leave Guide to Aid Improvement
We have employees in higher-level positions create a document describing what they do, and how they would improve things. One of our technician managers left us a wonderful document describing all sorts of ways to improve.

Think About Ways to Improve Your Exit Interview
We have only been doing exit interviews the last year and a half, so the process is constantly evolving. I am thinking of giving the employee a list of questions in advance to think about the responses before the interview.

 

Scott Huffer, OD, is a partner with with Drs. Helfman, Lasky & Associates in Nashua, N.H. To contact: eyedocscott@gmail.com

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