Dominic Cummings | Is this the most explosive 'exit interview' ever?

Is this the most explosive 'exit interview' ever?

As part of the ongoing Commons look into how the coronavirus pandemic was handled, Dominic Cummings, the former Chief Advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, spoke to MPs about the role of his former boss.

Since departing from his Downing Street role in November of 2020 at the request of Johnson, Cummings has been a vocal critic of the Prime Minister, and many within his cabinet – many of which were highlighted in the seven-hour session, which could be likened to perhaps the most public exit interview in history.

Among the numerous explosive claims Cummings touted, whilst being questioned by the Commons Health and Science and Technology committees, was a damning allegation about his ex-boss Johnson. The former aide claimed that the Prime Minister was “not fit for office” and that he was a "thousand times too obsessed with the media” and its perception of him.

"The heart of the problem was, fundamentally, I regarded him as unfit for the job. And I was trying to create a structure around him to try and stop what I thought would have been bad decisions, and push things through against his wishes," Cummings noted, as reported by the BBC.

The very public nature of Cummings’ scornful criticism of his former employer raises several questions for HR, such as why his concerns were not addressed previously, or how the breakdown in relationship between employer and employee became so severe that the latter was let go.

These are areas that should be properly addressed in an exit interview – yet perhaps not one publicly televised to millions of viewers. So, what are the keys to conducting an effective exit interview, and taking on an ex-employee’s concerns?

Previously, Liza Bennigson, Business Development Director at KonnectAgain and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman, told HR Grapevine that the essential success points of any interview are:

Start early

“Your employees should be well aware of the alumni network long before they become alumni. In fact, utilisation of the network by current employees may even boost retention rates. Research shows that access to mentors, a culture of inclusion, and professional development opportunities all impact an employee’s tenure, all of which can be leveraged by the alumni network.”

Make the exit interview count

“Assuming your employees aren’t part of the network already, this should be standard procedure at the exit interview for those who leave on good terms. Instead of the uncomfortable ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out’ conversation, establish an open-door policy where former employees feel welcome to return. It’s quite possible that your alumni are moving on to achieve big things (on someone else’s dime) and they could eventually come back even stronger than when they left.”

Offer value

“An ex-employee will be more interested in returning if the company stayed in touch and maintained a relationship in the interim,” said LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman. But simply having an alumni network isn’t enough. There needs to be unique value to your former employees in order for them to participate. People have plenty of professional and social networks already and are inundated with opportunities to connect. You need to stand out.

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