Most employees who leave a practice want to do so quietly and with a minimum of drama. Unless you ask directly via an exit interview—and the employee feels really, really comfortable with you—you’ll likely never find out the real reason for departure.
“One of the biggest problems in the working world is that an invisible, impermeable wall can build up between what employees would love to say and what the leadership team can stand to hear,” writes HR executive and author Liz Ryan in her March 2017 article for Forbes. That means missing out on valuable information you could use to improve your people skills, your practice, and your profitability.
Useful Questions for an Exit Interview
Besides being a valuable source of information about the overall workplace quality in your practice, an exit interview can shield your practice from legal action—especially when the departing employee leaves on not-so-great terms. It provides the opportunity to identify compliance concerns and regulatory violations, while at the same time assessing the potential for litigation. During the exit interview, include questions that will draw out compliance and ethical concerns. The American Academy of Professional Coders recommends questions like:
- Do you know of any ethical or compliance issues that should be addressed?
- Has anything been left unresolved that you think someone needs to know about?
- Have you ever witnessed conduct you would categorize as unethical or illegal?
- Do you feel like practice leadership has supported ethics and compliance initiatives?
- Do you feel like you received adequate training and orientation regarding the practice’s compliance policies?
What to Do with the Results
If the exit interview results in reason for concern, it’s a wise idea to consult with your practice’s attorney. Don’t forget: whistleblowers are entitled to a percentage of any monies recovered if a claim is prosecuted. If a departing employee—receptionist, coder, biller, or even physician—is already disgruntled, that kind of reward may be tough to turn down. Consequently, the worst thing you can do is ignore the information.
An exit interview, when you conduct one correctly, can help you determine the real reason an employee is leaving. Additionally, it can guide you in implementing changes to boost staff development and retention in your practice, says Elise Levine, MAG, CRC, who spoke to ophthalmologists during her presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives in 2016.
Follow These Guidelines
MGMA recommends following these guidelines to get the most out of an exit interview:
- Use an agenda. Decide on your objectives for the interview in advance, and use them to draft a list of questions. Think about what information would be most useful for your practice. Consider sending the questions to the employee prior to the interview, allowing time for reflection.
- Don’t be defensive. The point is to obtain useful, honest feedback, and you’ll only be able to do that if you have the right attitude. Listen carefully, allow the employee to speak, and don’t try to argue or try to prove the employee wrong.
- Ask the right questions. Just like in a hiring interview, open-ended questions work best.
- Consider scheduling. While many organizations conduct exit interviews on the employees last day, think about scheduling it a week or so after that via telephone. The employee might not be as honest as possible if thy think a paycheck hangs in the balance.
- Set the stage. You need the employee to feel at ease. Instead of sitting behind a desk in “face-off” stance, think about using a conference room or other area that will feel more informal and natural.