Creating a Positive Exit Experience

Published 30 May 2023 | 2 min read

3 ways to create a positive exit experience for your employees 

When an employee leaves a company, your first thought may be a negative one - how will you possibly replace someone that is a master at their job? 

It is important to take the focus off yourself and onto them. They are, after all, a wonderful asset to the future of your company. According to Gallup’s study, employees who leave your company with a positive exit experience are 2.9 times more likely to recommend the organisation to others compared with those who have neutral or negative experiences. Gone are the days of not caring how former employees feel about your company when they exit. For the most part, in our interconnected age, positive word of mouth is crucial. Negative exit experiences can erode your brand, internal culture and ability to hire top talent. 

This article written by Ben Wigert, Sangeeta Agrawal and Ryan Pendell, focuses on the key elements for making an employee's exit experience more positive. 

1. Make sure employees feel heard. 

If you take one thing away from this article, it's this: Exiting employees want to feel heard. Communication is essential to a positive exit. 

In fact, there is an 85% likelihood of a positive exit experience when employees say they had all of the following experiences with their previous organisation: 

  • A supervisor or leader talked with them in the three months before leaving about their job satisfaction, the future of their career with the organisation and what it takes to be effective. 
  • They talked with someone about leaving the organisation before resigning. 
  • They feel that there is nothing their manager could have done to prevent them from leaving. 

Exiting employees want to feel heard. Communication is essential to a positive exit.

Managers need to have regular conversations with employees about their job, where they are headed and what they need to do their job better. Employees want to see a bright future for their career-and know their manager believes in them. 

In addition, when managers hear clues about a possible departure (and they want to retain that person), they need to make an honest, good faith effort to improve their situation. 

2. Make them feel proud of their contributions. 

When an employee looks back on their time with you, they want to feel like it mattered. Every person wants to feel that they contributed, even in a small way. 

And yet, less than half of former employees (40%) strongly agree that they are proud of their work at the organisation. 

Before they leave the office, employers have the opportunity to help employees write a story about their past, one that makes them feel good about themselves and you. 

This may include messages from the team or a reception -- but, perhaps most importantly, it includes words from their manager. 

According to Gallup's analytics, employees who are proud of their work are 61% more likely to have a positive exit experience.

3. Develop former employees into brand ambassadors. 

In today's competitive job market, employers can't afford to be bitter over broken relationships. A "bad breakup" -- publicised on social media or employer review sites -- can have real consequences for your ability to attract and hire quality candidates. 

Employers need to develop the best post-employment relationships they can, which means thinking about the value of their reputation with employees after employment. 

Only 12% of former employees strongly agree that they consider themselves to be a part of their previous organisation's alumni network. This reveals a huge opportunity for an organisation that is searching for partnerships, talent or other resources. 

A truly comprehensive exit program should include purposeful check-ins with alumni -- who voluntarily left on good terms -- that alert them to new employment or referral opportunities. 

This can be a time to reinforce your employer brand, win back lost talent or generate quality referrals. 

Good Exits Are Intentional 

Exits can be surprising and emotional. That means organisations need to plan ahead and have a process in place that will make the most of the situation. Voluntary exits should be treated differently than involuntary exits given the circumstances, potential legal ramifications, and safety concerns associated with a forced termination. 

Not every relationship can be saved. However, employers can do a lot to make employees feel better about their tenure. 

When done well, exit programs can be one of the most important ways you express your organisation's culture. 

You can show your true colors and how you value your people by making their opinions count and asking them about the best part of working at the organisation and what could have been better. 

You can recognise them for contributing to the mission, values and business objectives of the organisation. 

And you can demonstrate to coworkers that even through the discomfort of an exit interview, departing employees will be treated with care. 

How an employer treats an exiting employee influences all the "bystanders" who remain at the organisation. 

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