Exit interviews have evolved from feedback interviews with employees leaving the organisation to a knowledge management tool, as a way of capturing knowledge from leavers. Rather than simply capturing human resources information, the interview also aims to capture knowledge about what it takes to do the job.
Done correctly, exit interviews can be a win-win situation for both the organisation and the leaver. The organisation gets to retain a portion of the leaver’s knowledge and make it available to others, while the leavers get to articulate their unique contributions to the organisation and to ‘leave their mark'. Exit interviews are relatively quick and inexpensive. In a knowledge-focused exit interview, a face-to-face interview is needed.How to go about it?
- Start early. Plan the exit handover with replacing staff.
- Identify persons that might benefit from the captured knowledge. Check their interest.
- Make sure explicit knowledge captured throughout the whole working period is accessible. Check for relevant additional aspects to be captured now.
- For tacit knowledge, review the key tasks of the person leaving. Ask about how to go about those tasks and the needed knowledge.
- Ask for a 'walk through' to identify success stories and success factors, problems and pitfalls.
- Identify knowledge sources (persons, networks).
The best exit interview happens during an overlap between the leaving and the replacing person.
Experience with Exit Interviews
“I try to use exit interview techniques often at the end of a “career period”, so every 4 to 6 years. My key question is: What is my special knowledge worth being shared with colleagues. Pro-actively,I am organizing short sessions to share my experience. In one case, in a COOF context, I wrote “learning sheets” about a particular theme. That was well appreciated by my successors and colleagues.
SDC culture does not include exit interviews as a standard feature. Being pro-active in this respect avoids from being frustrated about disinterested colleagues. Exit interviews are a kind of emergency tool, if experience has not been capitalized throughout the working period.”
Willi Graf, Senior Advisor NRM Division (2007)
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