Why It Is Important To Conduct Project Exit Interview

Exit interview is a common practice in companies where HR function is developed on a good level. In a nutshell, exit interview is a talk between a resigning employee and a company representative (HR manager, line manager, director). This talk if done properly can reveal a lot of useful information for the management of the company.

I first heard about exit interviews when I was resigning from one of my previous companies. My HR invited me to such an interview. It was an exciting experience for me. Later I thought that it might be a good idea to adopt this practice on a project level and to hold a project exit interview for those people who are leaving the project, whether they stay in the company or not. In this article I describe benefits you as a manager get if conducting project exit interviews.

The reasons why you need to conduct a project exit interview:

1. Mutual agreements check up.

Project exit interview is a good place to check whether everything has been arranged in terms of closing working relationship with a resigning employee. Thus, you can make sure that all necessary knowledge transfer from resigning employee to a person replacing him/her has been done. Also, you may remind a leaving employee of contractual obligations: non-competes, intellectual property agreements, etc. It’s very important to have this exit interview, at least, a couple of days before the official employee`s end date on the project. If you reveal at the interview that something hasn’t been done yet, you will have time to fix things.

2. Revealing the true reason for resignation.

Quite often project exit interview helps to reveal the true reason for the employee resignation. People are usually more open on exit interviews because they feel less pressure and obligations leaving the project. It may happen that the official resignation reason is spoken up to a completely different person, not you, and the reason expressed initially may turn out to be only a part of the truth or not the truth at all. If it is the case, exit interview will help you better understand what issues and risks you`ve got on your project or in your company.

3. Getting feedback on your project.

The resigning person is more likely to give honest feedback on your project, your team members and you as a manager. However, you should understand whether you want to hear honest feedback or not. The truth may be unpleasant and frustrating. But if you really want to improve yourself and your project, you must be ready for this. 

In fact, you must steer the conversation in such a way that will let you get out honest feedback from your employees. You may try to establish more open conversation with small talk. And then, requesting feedback, ask the interlocutor to focus on the things that may be improved, not on the good things. For example, instead of the question “How did you like meetings on our project?”,  ask “What do you think we can change to make our meetings more productive?”.

4. Setting the stage for the future partnership.

If the resigning employee is an A-player who is leaving on his or her own initiative, you definitely want such a person to stay. By the time of the exit interview you`ve definitely done everything to make your team member stay. Or not? In fact, there is always a chance that something will go wrong on this employee`s new work. So, you should make it clear that in such a case you`re really excited to welcome him or her back.

Also, there is a chance that you may team up later in another company. Thinking about this opportunity, it makes sense to talk about keeping in touch. You may agree on connecting on LinkedIn or other social networks and exchanging recommendations.

What not to do in a project exit interview

Now when we`ve gone through the topics that we can discuss on a project exit interview, let`s see what is inappropriate for this event.

First, an exit interview is definitely not a place for negotiating the employee`s staying on the project. If you have already been doing the project exit interview, it means that the decision has already been taken and you`ve already used all the trump cards.

Second, project exit interview is not a place for gossip and complaints about other co-workers, because it’s not in compliance with common office culture.  Though, sometimes it’s difficult to draw a line between gossip and feedback on other people.

As I started practicing project exit interview no long before, I can`t say that I`m an expert in this field. But I definitely find it useful for me and my team. What do you think about such practice? Maybe, you also leverage the power of exit interviews and can share your advice in comments?

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