Bad news: losing integral team members will happen in even the happiest work environments. So what do you do when one of your best and brightest receives an irresistible job offer, moves across the country, or decides to head back to school?
It can be crushing news when a valued employee decides to resign – but you have to be prepared.
If you’ve been blindsided by an employee resignation, these steps will help to make sure your company doesn’t miss a beat.
Have a backup plan
It might sound like hindsight when you’re dealing with a sudden resignation, but this piece of advice can actually be put into play before an employee resigns. How? By making sure that more than one person knows how to do every job in your shop. This ensures business continuity, and helps smooth the transition and training of future employees.
“There’s always going to be something even if someone is really happy at a company, so it’s important there’s always backup with employee knowledge,” said Rachel Rider, executive, organizational and career coach and founder of MettaWorks. “Start early in planting that seed.”
No matter how unwelcome the news is for you personally, it’s important to congratulate your soon-to-be-departed employee and celebrate their accomplishments with the company.
“You don’t want to be a Grinch about it,” said David Maxfield, vice-president of research with VitalSmarts and the author of four New York Times bestsellers. “You want to celebrate that someone you helped to mentor and nurture is moving to a better place.”
To woo or not to woo?
Depending on just how important the resigning employee is, it might be tempting to enlist all your powers of persuasion in the hopes of keeping them around. Experts say that if you’re really sure about doing that, proceed cautiously.
“If someone says they’re leaving for a job that’s the same, but 30 per cent more money, they’re saying if you pay me more, I might stay,” Rider said. “The question becomes how long do you think that person is going to stay after you pay them more? This is an art, not a science, and it’s often a gut check.”
Assess security risks
If the employee’s still determined to depart, start thinking about whether that person can be trusted with continued access to potentially confidential information and equipment.
“I have been in a range of companies where the day an employee gave notice, they would be walked out because of security concerns,” Rider said.
If you do follow this approach, however, make sure to consider the message it sends to current employees. Ultimately, you’ll have to find a balance between limiting security risks, and not making it seem as if you mistrust your staff.
Craft your message
It’s time to start worrying about the employees you still have. News travels fast in any workplace, and you don’t want the gossip to spread before your message. When one employee leaves, the people who are left might view it either as an opportunity, or a gateway to more work being dumped on their laps.
“Work with the person to craft a message to announce their decision,” said Janet Frood, leadership and team coach and founder of Horizon Leadership. “Communicate that positively and openly and make sure people are aware of what’s happening.”
Ask for your departing employee’s help
For as long as your resigning employee is around, that person could be a real resource in smoothing the transition. Find out all you can about all duties big and small handled by that employee, and if it’s appropriate, consider having the departing employee assist in training a replacement.
Conduct an exit interview
It’s not always an easy conversation, but it’s crucial to find out everything you can about why your employee decided to leave.
“Oftentimes there’s an external reason for the resignation, but you want to listen for how much of that is based on something that’s related to dissatisfaction with the job or dissatisfaction with you,” Maxfield said. “Learn all you can.”
Maxfield even recommends a post-exit interview conducted up to six months after an employee’s gone.
Don’t take it personally
It’s natural to wonder whether your employee’s departure has something to do with you. But for the good of everyone involved, try to put your wounded feelings aside.
“Without fail, managers who have people leaving take it to heart,” Rider said. “Then sometimes the worst parts of them show up: they get defensive, they get accusatory, they shut down. Try to self-regulate to know it sucks and it feels personal, but business is business.”