Why the way you treat exiting employees is so important

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“Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end” (any of our dear readers who can identify the film that this quote comes from will win nothing except my admiration, for what it’s worth!)

Although a fine example of 80s cinema, I disagree with this quote, particularly when applied to the end of a working relationship. In my view, when you leave a job it doesn’t have to be a negative experience and, while the circumstances of your departure may have an effect on feelings on both sides, it is in everyone’s interests to leave on good terms.

We spend our days talking to candidates who are in the process of resigning/working their notice and one thing is clear, this is an area that companies often get wrong.

Take the example of an acquaintance who, despite working for a company for 15 years, received no acknowledgement of his departure other than a request to return company equipment. Likewise, a candidate who, despite having an exemplary performance record, was made to work their notice in an office on their own, with nothing to do. There are so many examples like this and I can’t help but feel that the worst examples stem from individual behaviour (and the respective egos involved) rather than a systematic approach by the company involved.

One could argue that if an employee is leaving, what does it matter? However, the way outgoing employees are treated speaks volumes, both to the colleagues they leave behind and to the wider market.

Let’s be clear, people leave jobs all the time (indeed my mortgage repayments depend on them continuing to do just that!) and it is often the best thing for the individual and for the organisation. It is a difficult time for both parties as they navigate the leaving process – there is an inevitable erosion of trust as soon as an employee resigns (irrespective of how understanding the employer is) and this is exacerbated if the resignation is unexpected.

It is so important that employers get over the shock as quickly as possible and strategically ‘manage’ the employee’s departure. By this I mean that they need to take the same care as they would when someone joins the business. But surely, an exiting employee doesn’t deserve the same care and attention as a new joiner, I hear you ask? Well, I would argue the following:

Credit where it’s due

Chances are that the outgoing employee has served the company well, often over a number of years. Acknowledging this openly can only reflect well on the Manager and the Company and sends a positive message to those employees that remain that their work is valued.

It’s a small world

It’s a cliché because it’s true – be careful how you treat people because you never know when your paths may cross again. Next time, the shoe may be on the other foot.

Don’t speak ‘ill of the dead’

I have worked in environments when, as soon as someone leaves, their name is mud and their (previously glowing) track record is undermined to anyone who will listen. There is a big issue with this in that those who remain will see through this and start to question your integrity. However angry you are about the employee leaving, keep your negative comments to yourself.

Use the opportunity

Few companies use exit interviews effectively – often they are scripted, tick box exercises to go through the motions. However, I would argue that companies are missing a trick here. Handled effectively, this is a great way of getting some honest and frank feedback about your operation.

You reap what you sow

As with most things, the way you (or your company) behave towards an exiting employee will leave a mark and this can either be negative or positive. In the world of Social Media, bad feeling and poor practice is easily communicated to the wider market and this can do serious damage to your employer brand. Glassdoor.co.uk illustrates this perfectly. Conversely, handling your leavers with grace will serve you well. When I left my previous employer Capgemini, they were supportive, positive and gracious till the day I left and beyond: my immediate line manager didn’t change their behaviour towards me in any way and a senior manager took time to pop and say goodbye on my last day, thanking me for my efforts. They kindly provided LinkedIn recommendations, which I reciprocated and we have exchanged the occasional email since, if only to wish each other a Happy Christmas. This is typical of their culture and I am consequently vocal about this at every opportunity!

Here at AdMore we have so far maintained our zero % staff turnover – something which is incredibly rare in recruitment and which I am fully aware is unlikely to last forever. That said, I hope that when the worst does happen, we manage the situation with good grace and positivity.

 
 

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