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Monday, June 30, 2008

End of the Line

Seperations are never easy. Whether voluntary or involuntary, you always walk away asking yourself if there were things that you could have done better. The answer is usually, "yes". We all learn something from these events.

Maybe there was a way we could have saved that "star " employee, maybe there was something more that we could have done to help that struggling employee along, maybe there was something that happened during the actual termination process that could have been handled better, or maybe we've determined that we didn't have our requirements defined as well as we could have when we hired the person. But, alas, we are human - we are all in a constant state of learning.

I was just reading a passage from "HR From the Heart" by Libby Sartain and I liked her suggested questions for exit interviews from the section entitled, "The Inevitable End of the Line":

  1. "If you had the last three months to live over again, what do you think you would do differently?"
  2. "What have you learned that you can take with you to your next job?"
  3. "What are you proud of from your time here?"
  4. "What goals did you meet?"
  5. "What accomplishments will you be able to take with you?"

I like these questions for a couple of reasons. First, they let departing employees know that you view them as valued individuals that did accomplish goals and learn things during their employment with you. Second, it helps them prepare their thoughts for the work that they're going to have to do on their next job search (if they don't already have another opportunity).

I try to remember that as employees depart, what they did for us is in the past; they have their own futures to think about now. We eventually will find someone to fill their shoes - no one is indispensible - we will find a replacement. But, regardless of whether their seperation was voluntary or not, they now have the rest of thier lives and the welfare of themselves and their families to think about. Respecting those concerns is key to being a great HR professional.

We also might want them back someday! Even if a seperation is involuntary, there are times when an individual who was let go, might be a great fit for a new opening. If we treat people right when letting them go...maybe they'd consider coming back for that new, perfect opening.

Consider your database of former employees that weren't a good fit for the job they were placed in at the time. You hired them for a reason; you saw value in them at the time, right? Perhaps they fit in well culturally and were great employees but not for the role that they had at the time. Could they be utilized elsewhere now? If you let them leave the company with their dignity, they may be very open to rejoining the company in a different role at a later point in time - usually with new skills, talents and insights than what they possessed when they left. It would be a shame to lose that talent pool.

My current employer has hired back many people that could not be utilized most effectively when the company was smaller (myself included), but that we've found can add tremendous value as the company grows (I'd like to think that I can include myself in that group too) and I know that a huge part of the reason that I came back is because I was treated like a valued contributor when I left the company the first time. And, I think that the others feel exactly the same.

What are your thoughts on exiting employees, exit interviews, or otherwise related issues?

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