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The parting gesture: The handover and the exit interview

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
The former chief secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne left a note for his successor which said simply said, ” there ‘s no money left”. As parting gestures go it’s famous. I have my own example. As part of the interview process for a directors post I and other candidates had a one to one with the chief executive in which he informed me he was leaving the organisation because the chair was impossible to work with!
Perhaps this is why at a senior level there is rarely a handover between the departing manager and the new appointment. Like wise the whilst the chair of the board must surly  ask why one of their high profile managers is leaving there is hardly ever a formal exit interview. Stranger still when you realise that the same organisations that dispense with handovers and exit interviews for senior staff expect them to take place for other staff in the organisation.
Formal handovers are however considered best practise in many professions and organisations and exit interviews can provide useful information that may not come out of employee surveys or other forms of consultation. A handover doesn’t have to be a formal face to face meeting between the incoming manager and the outgoing manager it can be a written report summarising the current position, out standing issues plus some , “helpful” information about key personalities. Alternatively the handover report may be provided to the departing managers boss who uses it to brief the incoming manager. How useful this report is may of course depend on the circumstances of the departure and the relationship between the manager and their boss. 
The same is true of exit interviews which are often undertaken by HR staff their value may depend on the reasons for leaving and the individuals relationship with their manager. Managers are often sceptical about the value of exit interviews believing that employees who requests one have an axe to grind or simply wants an audience to here their moans.
Recently the board of one large complex organisation voted to introduce exit interviews as one of a range of ways of keeping in touch with what’s going on. This came about following a critical external report which stated senior managers in the organisation had historically lacked transparency with the board, presented an over positive view and used delaying tactics to avoid uncomfortable questions. It may not be realist to offer every employee an exit interview but a random cross section might provide some revealing information. 

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