Learning from leavers

Our previous blogs have been aimed at job seekers; candidates who are seeking their ideal agricultural job and who have enlisted Merston Peters to advise them on pre-interview, interview and post-interview tips. This time around, we’re looking at that age-old problem of staff leaving your business – from an employer’s perspective; how you manage an exit and turn what seems like a negative, into a positive.

So, a member of your staff has decided that they’d like to leave – there are many reasons that staff decide to move on: another job; family issues; change of circumstance; leaving the employment market; differences of opinion etc. Some of these can’t be helped, others concern your company and you would benefit from further explanation moving forward.

Exit interviews are sometimes conducted by companies wanting to benefit from knowledge transfer; especially from employees who have specific knowedge of operations, of suppliers, of processes. However, they’re not just about extracting information about the role itself. Let’s look at how you can turn a resignation in to an opportunity by way of an exit interview:

  • The first rule of thumb is, no matter what the position your employee is leaving, conduct an exit interview – this is a great opportunity to hear the honest view of someone who worked for your organisation. Opinion polls, staff surveys and chats around the water cooler with existing employees will always be biased – people want to keep their jobs and will very rarely offer an honest opinion; for someone leaving your organisation, they have nothing to lose – they can demonstrate any negatives, as well as positives, that they believe exist.
  • Understand that, during the exit interview, you must be prepared to take criticism. At this stage of your soon-to-be-ex-employees career, any amount of contradiction will be pointless – take it on the chin and learn from any negative comments that they make.
  • Conduct an exit interview with neutral people from your organisation; in order to extract honest comments, avoid people that your ex-employee will have worked with directly as, human nature says, they will not want to talk openly in front of those people. HR team members are always useful too.
  • Ensure that you have a set of questions ready for the leaver – useful questions would be:
    • Main reason for leaving?
    • Would anything have persuaded you to stay?
    • What type of role are you heading into?
    • How did you find working with your team; what was communication like?
    • Would you consider working here again if circumstances were different?
  • Take notes and be prepared to act on negative feedback – it’s a shame that you were unaware of some of the points that your ex-employee has to tell you and this may be a good point to begin involving current members of staff in letting you know their opinions on a regular basis – but take all points made as positives; opportunities to perhaps make changes so that existing, valuable employees don’t take the same steps.
  • One final, and important, reason for an exit interview the opportunity that it affords you to change the negative view of your business by a disgruntled employee – showing that you are prepared to listen to their reasons can mean that they change their opinion of your business before they leave. In some circumstances, your attitude may even make them reconsider their resignation – it’s all too easy to accept a resignation sometimes, without the opportunity to understand the reasons behind it.

Finally, conducting exit interviews with staff who resign is a good indication to existing staff that their opinions matter and, indeed, that you are open to criticism and ideas. Keeping that open and approachable status alive will certainly ensure that existing staff are happier and that you learn of any problems, or indeed achievements, in good time.

For all agricultural-related recruitment ideas and for further useful tips, don’t hesitate to contact us at Merston Peters – our experience ensures that you’ll get the best advice in the business.