Employee Exit — How To Turn Tricky Situation Into An Opportunity

The Show Must Go On”- Shakespeare

Best-performing employees are the apple of every organization’s eye.

Individuals who resonate with your vision and pursue organizational goals relentlessly (and tirelessly) are the most valuable assets you can have.

As someone who has been shortlisting and recruiting candidates for as long as I can remember, being the founder and CEO of ProofHub, I can tell you that employees who put in their heart and soul into their job are not easy to find.

No way I’m saying that your (or mine) company’s rest of the workforce does not work hard or lack commitment, but then some employees are so good that others can’t match their performance.

I can go on length and breadth about the top talents but that’s not the main focus of this article. I am writing this piece to discuss with you what to do when your top performers quit, when you least expect them to.

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that three and a half million employees have left their job voluntarily every month since January 2019.”

You may be paying them well, they may seem to enjoy your work environment, they may have some great friends at your workplace. You may think that they’re happy and cannot think of anything that can make them quit.

However, there are many other reasons for best employees leaving. A good salary package is not the only thing that matters all the time. Let’s take a look at them.

  • Lack Of Flexibility
  • Their Boss Lacks Empathy
  • They are stressed and overworked
  • They don’t see opportunities for professional development
  • Poor mental health
  • Corporate culture
  • Lack of engagement

Of course, there could be more factors other than those mentioned above for employees’ exit from your company. The reasons I have listed here are more evidence-based than theory-based.

I have seen the best people in my organization leave and I always wanted to find out the exact cause for it. I’ve made the best possible efforts to retain employees, but I also believe in an old proverb, “every change is for the better.”

While the outgoing employees are moving on to greener pastures or new opportunities, this situation can also prove to be a blessing in disguise for organizations. A new employee brings fresh ideas and new zeal to your workplace.

It has happened to me, it may have already happened to you, and it’s something that we’ll have to deal with at some point of the time or other.

I’ve learned how to deal with the best employee departures on a personal level. I’ve learned not to allow this departure to have a demoralizing effect on other employees. I’ve learned not to let my company’s growth be hampered by the inevitability of top performers taking the next step in their careers.

Today, I’m sharing with you some valuable lessons that will help you, your organization, and your workforce manages such stumbles and makes the transition as smooth as possible.

Let’s get started.

  1. Don’t Take It Personally

How can you do this to me?”, “What the hell! I thought we are on the same page since day 1”. These are some common reactions by most employers to their employees leaving.

As a founder who has worked tirelessly for years to turn your dream of running a successful company, you should not expect your employees to be as passionate about your goal as you are.

Of course, you want a bunch of top performers. But, they work hard on bettering themselves and their position in life whereas business owners work hard on their business.

Even if you’re upset, you don’t have to let your inner emotions come out. Rather, engage in a friendly conversation about [the employee’s] future plans. Modern workplaces are such that people come and go over and over again, so it’s important to maintain relationships.

2. Find Out The Exact Cause Why The Employee Is Leaving

There are many reasons why employees may leave the organization. You may only think that a fat salary package or sore relations with colleagues are the main reasons, but it’s better to find out the exact reason.

Hard-working, ambitious employees continuously work on bettering themselves and they’ve likely “outgrown” your business. If you’re tactful, you can get some insights into what your organization could do to make your next hire stay longer.

Agreed, not all employees will tell you the truth, but it has to be a continuous process from the employer’s side. Some employees feel awkward telling you all the reasons face-to-face. Holding a virtual exit interview may make your employees feel more at ease and they can be more candid when they are not right in front of you.

3. Make A Counter Proposal

To make a counter proposal completely depends on how critical the employee (outgoing) is to you and how their absence will disrupt your work process. Experts have compared counter-proposals with an attempt of reconciliation when on the verge of divorce.

According to CNNMoney, when an employee is leaving for an increased salary or a better title, you can find ways to match the new offer. Employees know their worth in the market and want to be paid accordingly. You can calculate if you can increase their wages to counter another company’s proposal.

As far as job titles go, you can consider elevating an employee to a higher, senior position. You can also change the position’s official moniker. If changing a couple of words can make your best employees stay then you shouldn’t have any problem with it.

4. Review Your Legal Obligations (as an employer)

Okay, so your employee won’t reconsider his resignation; he has firmly made up his mind to leave. As an employer, you should make sure that your company complies with all employment laws regarding termination.

Employers need to pay all pending wages including bonuses, disperse benefits, and provide them with the required legal notices. Of course, employment laws vary from state to state, so the best bet would be to have a checklist of obligations for terminations to help you remember and cover all of the bases.

5. Collaborate And Communicate

How you communicate the employee’s departure is in your hands. You can talk to your exiting employee about how to present the departure positively. Generally, employees know that someone is leaving even before the management does. However, you still have to break the news even if most of your employees know it already.

Employers have to be open and honest when communicating the departure to other stakeholders. Showing hard feelings might make other staff members feel that you’re resentful that an employee chose to leave and find a better opportunity elsewhere.

Appreciate the outgoing employee and why he/she was a valuable member of your workforce. Next, assure them that you’re trying your level best to find a suitable replacement and there is a possibility of some restructuring to replace an employee effectively.

6. Delegate Responsibilities

Once the employee has officially left your organization, you have to try and fill in the void created by delegating responsibilities. Accept that there will be a workload problem for your team for some time and some of your team members might feel overburdened. Make sure that there’s a fair and transparent division of work amongst staff members so no one feels over-stressed and burnt out.

You can also use the existing employee’s notice period as a learning process for those who will take over his/her responsibilities. Use the departure as a chance to talk to employees about their career plans and they can use the opportunity for professional growth.

7. Recruit New Hire

Finally, the only long-term solution to an employee’s exit is to find a replacement that can fill in those shoes. Bringing in new contributors will bring in new ideas and vibrant energy that might very well be the change you, your organization, and the workforce needed. New hiring will always reduce the workload of employees who have had to take on additional work.

Though the recent hires can’t and won’t be your best employees on day one, they’ll help your staff get back working on their routine tasks and maintain productivity. You should also create a succession plan to avoid the same issue from occurring in the future. This way, the position can be filled permanently or temporarily, even on short notice.

The Final Word

Successful employers always want their top-performers to stay. However, it would be too much to expect everyone to commit themselves to your organization for the entire life.

Rather than fretting over your top talent leaving, you should accept their decision gracefully, appreciate their contribution, and wish them best of luck for the future.

At the same time, waste no time in finding a suitable replacement to fill the void as quickly as possible.

Your top talent’s exit is another opportunity for your organization to find a new, more zealous and motivated replacement who might as well prove to be even better than the replacement!

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Author Bio:

Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — a leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on a lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, “Let’s go!” instead of “Go!” many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

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2. Six Foolproof Tips For Leaders To Develop A Positive Attitude (and maintain it)

3. How To Become A Productivity Machine: 6 Tips That Actually Work

Internet Entrepreneur, CEO of SDP Labs and Founder of ProofHub