Hearing the sad news today that Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris have ended their sickeningly sweet, inflatable swan riding relationship together got me thinking… How do you cope when a significant person decides to up and leave without you expecting it? What IF *bear with me* that person is one of the most talented, key employees in your team? I mean, did those years investing in new Training Certifications and team building Tough Mudder challenges mean NOTHING to them?
Sadly it’s going to happen in pretty much every business, so here are a few ways to (excuse the Swift puns) Shake it Off and handle the employee exit without Bad Blood.
Try and Save Them
As soon as a key employee gives you the news they are leaving you should be thinking how you could save them. Find out what is at the root of their decision to leave – is it financial? Are they moving? Have they lost the spark they used to have for the job? Try and get some honest feedback and see if there is a way to work around the decision, and always involve the CEO / Director as it will help show how valued they are to the company. If you can salvage the relationship GREAT if not it’s time to prepare for the break-up.
All break ups can make us emotional – even employee exits! Instead of weeping into your post it notes and making bad decisions, use this time to reflect on the exit and think about how it will affect the business, what you can learn from it and how you can move forward.
As some of us who’ve been through an actual break up know the best thing to do isn’t to jump into dating someone new just to fill the void. It’s the same with hiring! Don’t just throw the original job spec back online and wait for the first bite – you may need to evaluate what the actual needs of the vacancy are. Many of us start a role based on an initial job spec and slowly it will evolve and encompass different tasks and areas of the business. Sit down and talk to the employee who’s leaving so you can really understand the type of person you need to take over their role. Before you start recruiting, take a look at your own employees – this could be a perfect opportunity to promote someone within who is keen for a new challenge!
Break the News
Make sure you inform key stakeholders within your business that will be affected by the employee departing and discuss the succession plan with them. It’s always good to let the other employees know early on too – nothing is worse than rumours spreading so it’s better if you can control the news before it hits the office gossip!
Conduct an Exit Interview
This is key to every business. You need to know where you both stand (e.g. any covenants they need to adhere to, how the final payroll will be dealt with etc.) but it’s also a great opportunity for you to end on a high – which is crucial if you want that person to leave as an advocate of your business, and even re-join after they spend time exploring other avenues!
Plan for the future
“It’s not you, it’s me” – we’ve heard it before, but in your discussions with the employee during their notice period / within your exit interview you may well have pin-pointed things that you could have done differently to avoid them taking the decision to leave. Learn from this and take the right steps to protect yourself in the future – it may be that you decide to introduce flexible working, or conduct more regular salary reviews with employees etc. If you really want to be one step ahead, appoint someone in your business to keep track of ‘employee happiness’ through regular surveys and employee interviews – that way you may be able to save the relationship before they have their head turned by that company they left you for!
Sophie Heaton (Head of Employer Branding)