Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hidden store - HR practices

Managing Human Resources successfully is the toughest challenge organisations encounter. HR encompasses a sum total of human intelligence, skills, talents and knowledge. Organisations rely on these resources of employees for their prosperity and success.

Out of the door

Organisations often perceive employees as cost investments rather than a knowledge investment. However, employees invest their intelligence and skills in the organisation and if any of their expectations are not fulfilled, they decide to leave for a better place. The reasons for an exit could be low compensation, domestic problems or change in goals.

Research reveals that knowledge workers generally quit because of the organisation's inability to leverage employees' talents.


The exit of the traits and skills of employees is a major concern of organisations. It creates a work gap. To fill-in this gap, organisations need employees with the same skill sets. 'Knowledge Management' comes to organisations' rescue here.

"Knowledge Management embodies organisational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings ," said Yogesh Malhotra, CKO, Brint institute for Knowledge Management.

Hewlett Packard Laboratories has developed an employee directory of internal experts called Connex. It helps in locating subject experts.

Knowledge Management enables organisations to impart the required knowledge to the new recruits or the successors of the exiting employees. It facilitates the enhancement of capabilities and creativity of employees.

Fusion -New perspective

Exit interviews and Knowledge Management

Conventionally, HR used exit interviews as tools to strategise employee retention, ascertain job satisfaction and design reward strategies. Questionnaires reveal the reasons for leaving, comments on the work culture, job responsibilities and remarks of the employee. The information extracted is only about the organisation. But exit interviews may be used for 'determining the knowledge necessary for performing various tasks'.

The municipal authority of the city of Toronto for instance, employed an intern to develop its database. He developed it for forwarding invoices to all domestic animal owners of the city. The intern left on completion of his job.

The governing body faced problems. The permanent employees did not know the access and execution of the programme. The capital used to develop the database became a dead investment. The loss can be attributed to the absence of an exit interview. An exit interview would have enabled sharing of the information essential for the execution of the programme.

Knowledge management and knowledge sharing avert information gaps that result from employees exiting along with their expertise and ensure continuity of work.

Knowledge capture - the essence

Exit interviews must be designed to capture work knowledge. To encapsulate employees' work knowledge, the interview must be employee and organisational specific. It must satisfy the employee and the organisation. To capture knowledge organisations require:


The organisation should first determine the objective of interview. Its primary objective should be to enhance the employees' performance. Essentially, an exit interview should concentrate and highlight, 'what, how and why' of employees' work.

"The exit interview should focus on the achievements and performance of the employee. And we try to get insights about his learning, growth, reasons for leaving etc in the interview," said Joydeep Bose, then GM, (Corporate HR), Wipro.

MphasiS, the company that designs and builds IT architecture, applications and services, is one of the few companies where exit interviews are knowledge focussed. "It helps in identifying various training needs, opportunities for supervisory skill development and improving competitiveness. Besides, they identify legal issues and provide an excellent documentation process." said Vivek Dayal, Global head, Corporate Communications.

Issues related to compensation, communication, job satisfaction, employee morale, overall work environment and comfort level with technology provided form an important part of the interview. Employees' accomplishments, approach to work and working relationship with seniors and organisation are crucial to enhancing performance.


Exit interviews ought to be planned right from the inception of the organisation. It helps in handing over responsibilities and identifies the right employee to be entrusted with the job responsibilities of the departing employee. Consequently, an efficient employee replaces the exiting employee.


Employees' inputs at handing over stage before leaving the organisations are the most significant. Organisations and concerned authorities must let them concentrate on dispensing and gathering their knowledge. This is the most productive period for the organisation as the knowledge is passed on to the successors. Exiting employees must not be coerced to finish pending works.

2-D of knowledge

Working knowledge can be segregated into-explicit and implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the relevant material or content that employees use for routine work. Implicit knowledge is that which is hidden in the working pattern of the employee.

The interview should elicit the employee's explicit knowledge related to work.

Explicit knowledge

The material or content used during routine work may be manually written or compiled in folders in the employee's personal computer. These folders or files should be carefully transferred to the library or some secure destination of the organisation.

Helpful notes or educational tips may be appended to this information. This imparts better understanding and eases the new employee's workload.

Implicit knowledge

For implicit knowledge, organisations need to depute successors to the exiting employees prior to their departure. Capturing such knowledge needs regular interaction between the exiting employee and his successors.

Reviewing the important jobs performed by the employee is the first step. This reflects in their work plans or job descriptions. Discussing the working style and approach towards work of exiting employee is necessary. This may reveal the additional support required for perfect execution of the job.

Knowledge sources

Employees' work circuits are crucial information pools. Employees derive work knowledge from their peers and superiors. The interview should reveal these sources and their contribution. An organisation must maintain these learning relationships.

Model: questionnaire or e-mail?

Exit interviews are most effective when conducted face to face. Pre-formatted questionnaires are impersonal, exasperating and unproductive. In-person interviews help in understanding the mental, emotional and social concerns of the exiting employees better.

For effective and efficient interviews organisations need:

Interviewer: He is the soul of the interview. His skills determine the accomplishment of the interview's objectives. Outsourcing an interviewer is a viable option. Outsourced interviewers are trained and more objective and can understand and interpret the discussion with employees. Employees are more at ease to interact and part with their knowledge with an outsider.

Timing: For desired results interviews must be properly timed. The collection of information also should be timed. If the separation of the employee is not voluntary or employee is emotionally charged up at separation, the interview can be delayed. Postponement helps the employee settle down and brings out honest information. In regular cases exit interviews must be scheduled close to the separation date.

Atmosphere: An exit interview must be conducted in a congenial atmosphere. It must facilitate healthy interaction. This affects the employee's comfort levels and gives desired results.
Rapport: Organisations need to establish a 'parting relationship' with exiting employees. This is necessary as these employees might return, or the organisation might consider them for reemployment. Also the organisation may require the employees' services. Continuing relationships could help locate prospective recruits.

Follow-up: Follow-up has two tasks, documentation and analysis. Documentation is as important as the process. It aids and routes through the actual process of follow-up action. Analysis of the information gathered during the exit interview determines the necessary action to be taken. It gives a clear picture of on-the-job issues.

Employee input is in fact necessary at all stages of work. It ought not to be restricted to exit interviews only. Exit of employees cannot be anticipated. Thus, HR must encourage knowledge sharing and incorporate knowledge based exit interviews in the organisational culture and practices.

Effective exit interviews not only disclose employee related issues but also solve many business problems. They facilitate communication of employees' contributions to the organisation. Consequently, both employees and the organisation feel satisfied.

Organisations must realise the worth of their investment and the precautionary measures to be employed to retain invaluable knowledge workers and ensure profitability

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