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Exit interviews - are they worth considering for your departing veterinary team members?

Posted in Management @ Sep 22nd 2016 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
Exit Interviews Are They Worth Considering For Your Departing Veterinary Team Member

Don't waste a great opportunity when a member of your veterinary team decides to leave.

Even the best staff will eventually leave your veterinary business for whatever reason. Sometimes you can see it coming and other times you won’t. Sometimes all you can think about is the gaping hole that is going to be left and the time and effort you know it’s going to take to find the right replacement for your team. But before you launch into the whole recruitment and selection process (by first of course adding your vacancy to Vetme!) don’t miss an excellent opportunity to have a chat with your departing employee to find out some potentially useful information about your veterinary practice.

Exit interviews - they're not new....

Exit interviews are certainly not a new idea and formal exit interviews have positives and negatives. They can be a great way to find out what the exiting employee thought about their:

  • job,
  • work environment,
  • work culture,
  • manager,
  • team mates,
  • pay rates and
  • whatever else you care to ask about.

The reality is however that the success of the interview ultimately depends on how comfortable the departing person is about being totally honest (it’s never a good idea to burn you bridges!) and of course who is doing the interview. If you’re the practice owner AND manager AND the one asking the questions – well ….the quality of the information you may uncover can vary.

There are the traditional exit interview questions

If you’re interested in finding some traditional exit interview questions you can find lots of information online including here on businessballs.com: exit interviews.

If you’re not so comfortable with the formal approach or haven’t had much (or any) success in the past, before you completely disregard the whole idea of having a chat with departing team members, you might prefer this more casual approach I came across in a blog post:  Things You Should Ask an Employee Who’s Leaving (the muse).

What about 4 simple questions?

There are four questions in the post, three of which are not particularly confronting and could make for a nice conversation:

1. How did the job match your expectations?

2. Did you feel that the work you were doing aligned with your personal goals and interests?

3. Did you have the tools and resources you need to effectively do your job?

The fourth question I probably wouldn’t ask:

4. Would you recommend this as a great place for a friend to work?

Why wouldn't I ask it? Well, because I think most people, no matter what their experiences were would be more likely to answer with “Sure! Of course I would!” rather than perhaps more truthfully admit they wouldn’t suggest their worst enemy work there.

So as an alternative fourth question I’d probably prefer something along the lines of…

4. What could we have done to make your time working with us more enjoyable or fulfilling?

When and how should you ask these questions?

The 'when' and 'how' is really up to you.

You could ask them sometime during their last week, on their last day or even ask the departed employee back for a coffee a week or so after they’ve left as time may have given them a little perspective.

How you ask them is again up to you. There are certainly some valid arguments for giving the departing employee the questions a few days beforehand so they have time to consider their responses. Or you could go with the ‘tell me the first thing that pops into your head’ style of questioning. To be honest – knowing the personality types that often work in the veterinary industry  - I’d suggest giving them a few days to consider the questions.

You definitely want to do it in a private, comfortable location and ensure there are no interruptions. I usually don’t advocate using the local coffee shop for any type of interviews but in this instance I can see there may be some benefits to this location as long as you’re not going to be overheard and it’s quiet enough to have a proper conversation.

What do you do with the information you collect?

Depending on the responses to your questions you could either pat yourself and the rest of your leadership team on the back safe in the knowledge that you've created a good work environment and at least this employee was genuinely happy to be a part of your team. Or you might need a few days to think about the responses you have received and what you can do about them. They are the opinions of one person but if you do these interviews regularly (and you should) and similar responses keep coming up it might be time to reassess a few things regarding your leadership style and the culture and work environment you've created within your veterinary practice.

Whatever questions you choose to use and however you go about running the interview I definitely think there are benefits to undertaking some form of exit interview with your departing team members.

Any questions or comments? Add them in to the Comments section below.

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