How to Administer Exit Interviews to Laid Off Employees

exit-interviewWhen you’re the boss, one of the hardest things you’ll have to do is tell an employee that they no longer have a job, sometimes through no fault of their own.

When an employee loses a job through termination, layoffs, firing, downsizing or reduction in force, the manager or supervisor should complete an exit interview. That might be the second-hardest thing to do, after letting the employee know that they no longer have a job.

What is involved with an exit interview? The exit interview is conducted by the employer, manager, supervisor, or an HR representative that meets with the employee.

It’s normal for both the employee and the interviewer to feel nervous.

For employees, the goals are usually to get the maximum amount of severance money, to ensure that they obtain all of the benefits that they are entitled to, and to understand what their options are. It is an emotional and trying time, but an opportunity for a fresh start and through the meeting, they are looking to ensure that their chances of getting a new job with a new company are not harmed by being laid off from this company.

For an employer, it’s a bit more complex.

Here’s What Employers Will Need to Cover in an Exit Interview:

Severance Pay

Employers will typically offer severance pay, and this serves two purposes.

The first is that it helps long-term employees get back on their feet after being laid off for reasons that are not their fault.

The second is the severance pay will deter the employee from suing the employer for wrongful dismissal in the future. Because the employer is not required to offer severance pay, the employee is more willing to avoid lawsuits and to maintain trade secrets after they leave the company. The result is an amicable parting for both the employer and employee.

Reference Letters

Because the employee is likely to seek new employment immediately, the employer and the employee should talk about the method for handling calls from prospective employers and references. To assist the employee’s job search, both parties should attempt to reach an understanding of what should be said to prospective employers. In the case where an employee was terminated for a reason that was not their fault, it will be much easier for an employer to provide a good reference or a recommendation.

Talk About What to Do with Accrued Vacation or Other Benefits

Benefits, health insurance, 401K policies, profit sharing, and any rollover options all need to be discussed. All account numbers should be confirmed so that the departing employee is able to manage their accounts properly thereafter. Remember that the employee has a right to know these things before their departure.

Secure the Return of Company Equipment

Keys, identification and pass cards, passwords, and all other company assets should be returned at this time, if not sooner. A complete inventory of company property and equipment in the employee’s possession should be completed and documented to avoid any future disagreements in regards to returned property. Also remember that the employee has the right to return and gather their personal belongings on the employer’s premises at a predetermined date.

When preparing for this meeting, gather your notes and a list of things to discuss. It’s best if you have and use clear procedures and documented processes. If either one of you is flustered or nervous, you then have guidelines to follow. This meeting can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.