How to Survive an Employee’s Departure

These steps will help ease the transition when an employee leaves

Back Web Only Apr 28, 2016 By Kelly Azevedo

It’s inevitable. You’re just getting into a groove with your business and team when someone announces she’s retiring, moving on, starting a family or going back to school. Or maybe you’re about to take a long-awaited vacation when you find out an employee has given notice.

Sometimes you’ll get little-to-no notice, like when a team member falls ill, experiences a family emergency or accepts a new job. Virtual employees may disappear, becoming unresponsive to calls and email. No matter the reason for an employee’s departure, there are things you can start to do immediately whenever this happens.

Undertake these tasks immediately: Determine the departing employee’s final date of work so you can make appropriate plans. If the final day is today, then your timeline will speed up.

Arrange final payments with your accounting department to include hours worked, accrued vacation time, any advances given and reimbursements pending. Review state and federal law on these reimbursements to make sure you’re in compliance.

Review your employment contract: Note any non-compete, confidentiality or nondisclosure clauses that need to be discussed with the departing employee before they walk out the door.

Decide whether to replace or redistribute: You might immediately begin the search for a replacement, but consider redistributing the work to other team members, at least temporarily. It’s not only a cost-saving measure while you search for the right person to hire — it also allows you to cross train your team to cover multiple positions. Establishing this buffer allows you time to create the training materials a new employee will need to get up to speed.

Related: High-Speed Hiring

If the departing employee will continue to work for a few days or weeks, consider focusing her attention on creating a position manual explaining how work is done (instead of piling on last-minute tasks). Oftentimes, as supervisors, we think we know what a position entails and how a task is done. But, in reality, only the employee doing that job day in and day out truly knows all the details.

Related: Digitize Your Operating Manual

Recognize the opportunity: When a team member leaves, it’s easy to get frustrated. These changes typically have bad timing, you’re rarely excited about the prospect of rehiring and there’s the rest of the team to consider in the meantime. Instead of approaching this change with dread, see it as an opportunity to strengthen your team as a whole.

Sit down with other employees to ask their opinions on how work can be managed during the hiring process — you might find someone is looking for a chance to grow into a new role. Take time on your own to reflect on the departing employee and what traits you’d like to see (and avoid) in a new employee.

Be prepared for the possibility that one employee leaving will trigger a domino effect of resignations among other employees. Again, seeing any employee departure as a chance to hire new talent and a fresh face who is excited to learn and grow with your company is the blessing in disguise.

No matter how and when an employee leaves, it’s not time to panic. Employment contracts are not “til death do us part,” and turnover is a natural part of business growth. By preparing for this inevitability and putting a plan in place, you will reduce anxiety and uncertainty both for yourself and the rest of your team.