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When you lose a top-notch employee it is hard. It can make things difficult in the short term - very difficult - especially if you are talking about a very small staff that you've carefully chosen and they've become so cohesive in the way that they work together it's almost like they complete each other's sentences.
Yes, losing even just one employee from a very cohesive group can really throw the whole team - even the whole business - off balance. I’d like to be able to tell you how you can keep this from happening. And, I’d like to be able to tell you what you can do to make them stay. But the reality is there is probably nothing you can do in many cases. If everyone is happy and this is a person leaving on good terms then they are leaving because they just have to – moving, leaving the workforce for a period of time, a spouse is taking a new job across the country… the possibilities are endless. About the only thing you can offer are these options:
- Increase in pay
- Possibility of remote work if they desire this
- Change in hours
- More vacation time or personal days
- Change in workspace location in the building
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Again, if everything is fine and this person is leaving, then these offers likely won’t help. The best you can do is smile and say goodbye. The problem is, what happens to the customers they normally interfaced with if that was part of their job? Those customers may now lose confidence, fear the change, or otherwise change their opinion of your business based on this person suddenly exiting. You can’t hide the fact that they are leaving or have left. In fact, the perceived act of deception if you try to gloss it over can actually undermine your reputation with these customers.
In cases where customer-facing activities were a big part of this person’s job, I suggest the following:
Have the resource announce their imminent departure to the customers they generally work with. It’s always best if the news comes straight from the resource – especially if they had a great relationship with all or certain customers. Confidence in your ability to deal with the transition and ongoing delivery will be higher if the customer gets to discuss it with that resource face to face. They will feel like they are getting the honest and accurate information on why the resource is leaving. It won’t cause them to immediately think the worst or be very concerned.
Have the outgoing resource participate in the hiring process for their replacement. Who better to replace yourself than you? Seriously, the outgoing resource knows their job, they know the customers’ needs and preferences that they regularly interact with and they know what kind of skill level and business acumen the position requires. You should too, but having both of you work on finding and hiring their replacement is desirable over just you doing it – if they are available long enough to assist with the process.
Have the outgoing resource mentor the new employee during the onboarding process and introduction to the customers. Finally, if you can keep them around long enough to mentor and/or train the incoming employee, that would be best. This is probably a long shot because between the hiring process and the mentoring process we are probably looking at a minimum of six weeks. Unless the replacement resource is coming from internal staff, then this one probably can’t happen…but at least try to make it happen. It will definitely make your customers feel more comfortable.
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There’s no easy way to replace a good employee that was part of a very close-knit, cohesive team, especially when you also have the added effect of customers who interacted with this resource. But slowing down during the exit and replacement process a bit – if possible – to give and the organization time to adjust to the change confidently, can go a long way in retaining customer trust and satisfaction.
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