It is one of the most dreaded, yet inevitable realities of the modern workplace – highly mobile employees quitting their jobs in favor of better opportunities, more perks, higher salary, and other assorted reasons. Even the biggest brand names such as Google, Facebook and Apple struggle to retain employees for more than two years. Regardless of the reason for quitting, managing the exit and the resulting transition is far from easy for businesses.
Here are five things organizations must do when their top talent decides to jump ship:
#1 - accept the exiting employee’s decision
When a star employee is in an advanced stage of courtship with a competitor or another organization, there is little anyone can do to stop them at that point. It’s best to accept their decision and mentor them – give advice, recommendations, share contacts and anything else that will make the new chapter in their career easier. Bad-mouthing their new employer is not a good idea as it can backfire. Your company’s goal should be let the star performer exit on a good note – so appreciate their contributions to the business and wish them luck.
#2 - reflect on the reason(s) for the exit
When top talent leaves the company, it’s time to take stock of what made the employee leave. Is it lack of engagement, a change in corporate management or culture, an ineffective recognition program or something else? Top talent rarely leave for better salary. According to a recent research, the lack of learning and growth opportunities, challenging projects and flexibility, were the key reasons behind top talent switching jobs. An open discussion with the exiting employee or a structured exit interview can help identify the reasons to minimize voluntary attrition in the future. Indian companies such as Marico and Mondelez India Foods have been outsourcing exit interviews to make them as objective as possible.
#3 - create a solid succession plan
Typically, top employees give sufficient notice prior to leaving, so the organization can plan for their succession without interrupting business continuity. A succession strategy should involve documentation of projects/client accounts that the exiting employee is working on, past and present status reports, contacts database, and any other strategic information. Use the transition period to get potential successors trained by the star employee, so best practices/technical skills are effectively transferred for minimal disruption.
#4 - formally communicate the departure across the organization
When top talent exits, rumors can spread quickly. To prevent this from happening, organizations must openly communicate the news of the departure along with the key reason for the departure. It is also a good idea to give the exiting employee a chance to speak about his/her departure. At this time, it is important that an organization comes across as confident and ‘in-control’ of managing the transition and taking things smoothly thereafter.
#5 - keep in touch with ex-employees
Staying in touch with ex-employees can be hard, but well worth the effort. For one, employees today are not averse to boomeranging back to their former employers - 40% of millennials would consider going back to their previous employer. Second, even if top employees don’t return, they might refer or recommend workers for key positions as they know your organization inside out, saving precious dollars as well as time.
At a time when workforce mobility is inevitable, effective change management is necessary to manage key exits and keep the business going strong. The best strategy is to establish an ongoing talent development strategy to ensure a robust pipeline of internal talent, enabling a smooth transition if and when the need arises.