There will come a time when one of your top employees resigns. Whether you are blindsided by the news or expecting it, you’ll need to take immediate steps to successfully off-board the employee and set the rest of your team up for success as you’re working to fill the vacancy.
While ideally you’ll have a succession plan already in place, if you don’t, start with these steps:
Appoint an interim leader. Identify the person on your team who can most easily fill in for the departing employee. To the extent possible, this person should begin shadowing your exiting employee, sitting in on conference calls and attending meetings to learn the specifics of their job. If you need assistance in hiring an external interim leader, don’t hesitate reach out to recruiting firms.
Be transparent with your team. Hold regular staff meetings during the transition to keep your team informed of your plans for hiring a replacement, as well as any added responsibilities they will have until that happens. Monitor your team’s morale and make adjustments where needed; always take advantage of opportunities to compliment employees that step up help, and let them know you value your efforts.
Collect knowledge. The best way to assist your team — and the new leader hired into the role — is to provide as much documentation about the job from your exiting employee as possible. Most leaders find this to be a challenge because employees generally do not take the time to create documentation facilitating transfer of their knowledge to their successor. At the very least, ensure you get these questions answered:
- What are your critical daily tasks and how are they accomplished?
- What are the top three projects that your successor needs to continue? What is the current status and what direction do you recommend for these projects moving forward?
- Where are your folders with project documentation and login information?
- Are there any special issues or concerns we should be aware of?
- May we have a list of all your regular contacts to update them on your departure?
Hold a Q&A session. To facilitate the exchange of knowledge, ask your departing employee to be available to answer questions and share best practices with the team prior to their last day. This meeting format works best with a designated facilitator to keep the conversation focused and beneficial.
Set the right tone for the departure. You never know how your paths may cross in the future, so it’s best to ensure your employee leaves on a good note. Simple gestures such as offering to be a reference if needed in the future, presenting them with a departing gift, or hosting a farewell happy hour can help make them feel appreciated.
Prepare for the future. Ensure you arrange adequate job shadowing opportunities for junior level employees to work and learn from their senior colleagues. To further promote a mentoring culture, include training and coaching as part of the expectations for the promotion process.
Every organization experiences turnovers, but having a plan in place helps ensure your company can function smoothly with very little interruption.