The Biggest Secret to Offboarding
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Medium here.
If someone asked me what is the key to a successful exit process, I would definitely say preparation. Part of that preparation is how you will be conducting your exit interview with the employee. There are a lot of parts to this conversation to prepare for, but here is my biggest secret.
I stage the conversation.
What is so important here is that you are human and caring during this process. Just because you stage something does not omit its value or authenticity. Staging shows how important it is to make someone feel as comfortable as possible during the moment. Here’s how to do it:
You Need Two People
This is key for many reasons that I will discuss in a future post, but for the purposes of this one, it is to be able to stage your conversation correctly.
If possible, find a room that is in a quiet area and near an exit. In addition, this space should be calming if at all possible, so do not use the conference space with the life-size bear mascot in the room.
Think about how your office runs – when is it most quiet? I recommend speaking to someone in the morning. If done in the morning, they have the entire day ahead of them and the most energy. They will need energy to get through the rest of the day, assuming this is a hard conversation.
Set your lighting. The brighter the room, the more “on stage” people feel, which is not comforting at all. Work to bring the light down to a minimum so as to set a calming space.
Traditionally, you have 2 parts to an exit interview. Someone delivering the message (i.e today will be your last day with the company) and someone sharing information around what that message means in regards to pay, benefits, etc. Set up your seating so that the person delivering the initial news is across from the person you are saying goodbye to. They should be face on and farthest from the employee. Person 2, the individual sharing information, should be sat next to the person being let go or at least closest to them. This will allow you to walk through paperwork together so they can see details as necessary. The added plus is that this also gives a closeness which transfers to a more comforting feeling. Just imagine someone told you something bad was happening but stayed on the other side of the room as you were feeling alone. If someone is close by, you do not feel so alone.
Like any conversation, your body language helps to move you through this specific conversation. When you are giving direct, important information, you should be sat with a good posture and firm hands that can be descriptive. The person sharing important information about benefits and pay should come closer by bending into the information you are showing them. Again, that person is there to provide support and comfort.
This is so important. As a part of preparing for this conversation, you will, of course, discuss the “what” to say, but the “how” you say it is equally important. The individual delivering the message that “today is your last day” should have a firm low tone so the individual can hear the message clearly. Remember it cannot lack empathy. On the flip side, for the individual sharing information afterwards, they should have a low calming tone that shows them the support they need.
Try these key elements out on an upcoming exit interview. See if this helps you deliver your message to the employee better. And make sure you rehearse. Like any good show, a dress rehearsal is necessary. Walk through the entire conversation with all of the elements in play. Review each other’s tone, body language, etc. to ensure it is appropriate for the conversation.
Like every hard conversation, you must prepare. Although you hope for the best, it can always become difficult. People remember how you make them feel in that moment and creating a calmer considerate atmosphere adds to the feeling they have.
Greg Storey, InVision’s Senior Director of Executive Programs, on standups and standing, evening escape plans and killing elephants.