Kusserow on Compliance: Tips for an effective compliance exit interview program

– Useful only if done correctly

Carrie Kusserow has developed and evaluated many compliance-related exit interview programs and has found that one that is properly designed and constructed may give early warning of a potential liability and permit corrective action to prevent escalation of the problem. There is the added benefit that the program may deter departing employees from becoming “whistleblowers” after they have secured new employment and are free of the fear of retribution or retaliation. By affording these employees an opportunity to provide information prior to departure permits the individual a legitimate path for redress of grievance and reduces the likelihood they will turn outside the company to “blow their whistle.”

She found the most cost effective, efficient, and useful programs are those that separate the last day HR exiting process of filling out forms, turning in company property, providing COBRA and other needed information. On the last day, departing employees are often preoccupied with the process of leaving and what is required and may be reluctant to reveal the full and true reasons for leaving. Exit interview should be conducted as far in advance of the last day as possible. They should be a live exchange and not just “fill out the form” process and those conducting the interviews should be properly trained and with the skills to obtain useful information.

If done properly, exit interviews allow departing employees to describe experiences and identify issues for management that could otherwise remain unknown. Most such interviews will likely only take 15 to 30 minutes. The biggest challenge is defining those that the compliance officer should debrief. There is only a limited number that can be done. Generally, the individuals are limited to members of management and those identified as potentially having a grievance against the organization.  She offered the following tips for those considering establishing or enhancing their exit interview program.


  1. Create a policy document as to what level of management should be debriefed by the compliance officer. It is important to carefully define covered persons to avoid individuals resisting being interviewed. It should be considered just another formality in the exiting process. It then can be presented as yet another formality that must be followed before exiting the organization.


  1. Interviews should be scheduled as soon as possible after the decision to the leave the organization has been made. This permits the organization to take remedial action to any problems raised during the interview before the person leaves.


  1. Conduct the interview away from the person’s office to avoid distractions or interruptions in a place where the conversation can be overheard.


  1. Use open-ended questions, where the departing employee supplies the answer, are much more effective than having answers given from a predetermined list. Departing employees are typically reluctant to say or do anything that might prejudice their opportunities for future employment. The reliability and usefulness of the results is strongly affected by the skill of the interviewer and whether the employee trusts the interviewer.


  1. Include questions about the departing employee’s experience, especially where it involves compliance matters, discrimination, and harassment, etc. The debriefing should include very pointed questions about their work place experience with regards to compliance.


  1. Questions should include whether they observed any violations of laws, regulations, Code of Conduct, policies, etc. If so, the compliance office should be alerted.


  1. Any management, regulatory, or legal issue raised should be addressed, if possible, before the employee leaves the control of the organization. Taking corrective action while the person is still an employee may forestall that person from taking the same issues with an attorney, government agency, media, etc.


For more information or assistance in establishing Compliance Program Exit Interview Programs, contact ckusserow@strategicm.com.


Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.