Employees will leave your organization at some point. Gone are the days where people stay with the same company for 25+ years. Managing the exit process is something that is often overlook and severely under-executed. There are many valuable lessons to learn during the exit process if you are open to receiving them. Consequently, how you handle an employee’s exit will have a huge impact on your other employees.
There are often a lot of emotions that are activated when an employee leaves and it can often be frustrating. You must control those emotions and remain as professional as possible during the process. You have to remain highly focused on getting everything in order and adequately transitioning their work and knowledge to others. If you fail at this, your business will suffer as will the employees who have to pick up the slack to compensate for the vacancy.
Succession planning should be part of your standard operating procedures. Every person who manages people or processes should continuously train others to seamlessly take over. As I have written before, an excellent leader starts training their replacement the day they start the job. Build a culture around this philosophy; there are many positive benefits outside of having to replace someone who has resigned.
The hand-off is critical especially when clients are involved. Ensure that their replacements are identified quickly and that they start meeting immediately to be briefed on the projects and tasks that are in progress. If introductions to clients or staff are necessary those meetings should be scheduled as well. It is generally a good idea to have a transition process that outlines the necessary steps to move projects from one person to another. If you do not have a processes already developed, quickly create one to be used for the hand-off. Items to include in this document would be:
- Communication plan
- Introductions to staff/clients
- System access restrictions
- Contract reviews
- Open issues
- Progress reports
- Manual process that the replacement will be required to execute
Handle the exit gracefully. Everyone watches everything but they are especially tuned in when someone announces they are leaving. They will watch how you and the company handle the situation and expect it to be done professionally and fairly. The gossip mill will run rampant if there are any major issues or unfair treatment.
Don’t bad mouth the person who has chosen to move on. Be aware the air is often tense after a resignation has been announced, help other employees cope with that and do what you can to raise their spirits.
Use the exit interview as a way to improve your management. Find out why they are leaving, where they are going and what could have been done to keep them. Be open to their feedback and really reflect on their perception of things. You want them to leave your organization with a positive feeling. You could end up working with them again in the future.
Protecting your intellectual property, while listed last, should be a priority. Part of the hand-off process should include limiting system access as much as possible for them to complete the transition. Once an item that required a high-level of access has been transitioned, access should be limited or revoked.
When someone resigns they often know they are going to do so long before you have been told. Having a process in place can make their exit as seamless as possible for your company, client’s and other employees. Managing an exit of a key employee is critical and needs to be handled methodically and professionally.