Tips that make the exit process a positive experience

An article written by Matt Johns, Humankind, for Southern Cross, October 2018

There is no such thing as zero turnover in business. Employees come into organisations and, for most, they leave when the time is right. Of course, the reasons for this are wide and varied: career progression, new opportunities, migration, redundancies to name a few.

For the vast majority of employees, leaving their employer is met with minimal fanfare. Most of us have worked in organisations where relatively well-known colleagues have left without us even realising!

From an employer’s perspective, there is merit and advantage in planning for employees who have decided to leave, or indeed for those leaving due to downsizing or restructure.

An employee leaving is somewhere between a predictable and unpredictable moment. There is notice that this is going to happen, but the circumstance are always unique. The experience is felt not only for the individual who has decided to pursue new opportunities, but also for those employees who remain.

Employees will leave – that is a given. And of course, they will provide notice so there is time to prepare. The circumstances and timing however are variables that should be considered carefully.

What is clear is that leaving the exit process to chance can lead to unintended consequences, the effects of which can linger long after departure.

Here are some tips worth considering:

  1. Explain why. Ensuring other employees know the real reason for someone’s departure is a critical component of modern transparent business culture. If this does not happen, employees will naturally fill in the gaps with speculation and rumours, the results of which can be damaging.

  2. Record exactly what they do. This is often very different from their official position description. We all develop new areas of responsibility as our roles evolve. There is nothing worse than an employee leaving and key processes failing as a result.

  3. Consider key relationships. A void can be left when key people leave. Regardless of the circumstances, consider those who have the closest working and personal relationships with the individual (this is not always as easy as it sounds). These employees will be affected by the departure and you will need to spend time with them to reassure them that the future is positive and that they are a key part of that future. Thought should also be given to key external relationships the individual may have.

  4. Respect the decision. All too often, when key employees decide to leave a business it can lead to a somewhat frosty working environment. The reasons for this are wide ranging – from the inability to overcome a disagreement to new opportunities at a competitor. Either way, the impact on the wider employee group can be disruptive and even destructive. The trick is to stay authentic, open and professional. Respect their decision and focus on a positive transition.

  5. Ask for their advice. Exit interviews are commonplace, however, there remains an opportunity to conduct this formal interaction in a different way. Rather than focusing on what went wrong or what could have changed, look to the future. Ask the employee to share their view on what might be changed or improved in the future. You’ll be surprised at the positive ideas that will be shared and the relationship with the employee will strengthen, both in the short term and post-employment.

Ultimately, business leaders need to consider what they need to do to achieve three different objectives: maintaining continuity in the business; creating a positive experience for remaining employees; and ensuring a positive relationship with the employee leaving the business.

Keep in mind that New Zealand is a small place – some even say a village. Getting these three objectives right will not only set the foundation for a successful transition and a growing business, but will also ensure that when you come across ex-employees in the future, their departure will be viewed in a positive light.

Having worked in experience design and strategy for the past decade, Matt brings a unique perspective on what he calls, Employee Experience. Matt has worked with organisations across the world connecting business strategy with deliberately designed customer and employee experience strategy. He uses his diverse background to push leaders beyond the obvious to make clear, commercially astute, strategic choices.

 

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