When you're losing experienced employees, the worst thing that can happen is to let them take all of their hard-earned knowledge with them. Employees develop experience in tasks, topics, and networks of contacts. Learning from their experience is essential to staying successful after they go. This set of articles is here to help you do that using Exit Interviews and Mentoring Sessions.
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Take the time to develop the knowledge you’ll need to make the knowledge-collection process work. If you don’t feel comfortable going through this process, you may want to reach out to someone who can. For example, if you aren’t comfortable conducting an interview but you know someone who is talented in that area, feel free to ask them to conduct it for you. This may have the added bonus of giving you an outsider’s perspective on the exiting employee and their work in the department.
Conducting an interview or mentoring session requires a certain attitude about the exiting employees and about the work. The goal is to collect useful knowledge, and that means giving the employee room to talk. Strive for perfect efficiency with every word you speak, using them to prompt more information from the employee.
Depending on the circumstances of the employee's exit, this may be more difficult at some times than others.That makes a willingness to listen even more important. Being receptive in an interview can be a win-win for you and the employee. You will have better access to essential knowledge, and the employee may leave with a more positive attitude to the organization and to their own work there.
Conducting an interview requires a variety of skills. While the willingness to listen is an attitude, the listening itself is a skill. Active listening involves attending not only to what the employee is saying but how they are saying it, remaining aware of their tone of voice and body movements. It also involves the ability to prompt them for more information when you recognize that they're talking about a gap in your own knowledge, and to ask follow-up questions when the conversation goes somewhere you may not expect. In addition, if you are not audio or video recording the interview, you will need to be able to write down the employee’s responses while you listen.
Once you have captured the knowledge from the employee, you will need to be able to organize it into a coherent picture of their work experience. A set of interview notes may not be all that useful to the rest of your office. You or someone else in your organization will need to be able to take this knowledge and create something the department can use. This could include user guides or checklists. Making these also requires technical skills. Again, if you feel you are unequipped to take on the task alone, don’t be afraid to reach out to another colleague or another department for assistance.
Once you know what you need to do, you can create your plan.