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What to do when an employee call it quits

Your attitude should reflect that no one is irreplaceable. [iStock]

You’ve invested a lot of effort in attracting, identifying, and hiring top talent for your growing business. Your team works seamlessly, enabling you to take breaks every now and then – it’s blissful.

But then, one of your best employees quits. Regardless of how well organised you are, the departure of a good employee can cause panic – especially for small companies with a handful of employees.

It’s normal for employees to quit jobs – and the reasons are as varied as the individuals. They might have gotten a better paying job, decided to pursue their education, found a job with better work-life balance, had disagreements with the manager, or just decided to change careers.

If an employee leaves on good terms, conducting an exit interview can provide you with an insight into how to improve your human resource processes.

When an employee leaves, you will have to act swiftly to ensure other employees, your clients, and other stakeholders experience as little disruption as possible. Here is what you need to do when your best employees leave abruptly.

Don’t react emotionally

Many employers feel betrayed when an employee leaves their company, especially if they’re going to work for a competitor. While a loyal employee is a valuable asset for any organisation, don’t expect your employees to be so loyal that they don’t pursue their own goals and aspirations.

Reacting emotionally will only make the process more awkward for both of you. Putting emotions aside and wishing the employee well will show maturity and help maintain a good relationship. As the leader in your organisation, your team expects you to set the tone. If you take the employee’s departure in stride, your team will follow suit.

While you shouldn’t undermine the departing employee’s contribution, your attitude should reflect that no one is irreplaceable. Convey a message of stability and strength as you put a transition plan in place.

Regardless of why the employee is leaving, ensure you take care of all the legal requirements. [iStock]

Conduct an exit interview

As we’ve noted, there are many reasons for employees to quit – don’t assume that the reason is obvious or personal. Arrange an exit interview with the employee to learn where the company can improve itself, to make sure the employee leaves feeling good about their service and, in some cases, to encourage the employee to stay under new circumstances.

Ideally, in a small business with only a handful of employees, the business owner should conduct the exit interview. Don’t delegate this responsibility to the employee’s supervisor – the quality of their relationship will bias the responses.

Ask the employee open-ended questions to help you understand their experience with your company, why they are leaving, and how you can improve your human resource services.

Take care of legal requirements

Regardless of why the employee is leaving, ensure you take care of all the legal requirements. For instance, pay the employee their full salary for the notice period and the required service fee, commissions, and bonuses.

Consider consulting a human resource professional or labour lawyer to ensure that you follow all the laws and regulations for your industry. Failure to adhere to legal requirements can open you up to lawsuits from disgruntled employees. It’s a good idea to have a checklist of obligations for terminations – it will help you remember and cover all the bases.

Shift tasks and roles

Ask the departing employee to make a list of their day-to-day tasks and for updates on ongoing projects. If possible, they can also provide a list of the resources that will be needed to complete pending projects. This information will come in handy for figuring out how to redistribute and reassign tasks.

Current employees with the necessary skills and experience can temporarily step in as you look for a replacement. Don’t be in a hurry to find a replacement – that can lead to making an offer to an unsuitable candidate.

Conduct an exit interview. [iStock]

Take this time to assess the role and figure out if you need to make any changes. Do you really need to backfill the role?

Can the responsibilities of the role be redistributed to the other employees without overloading the team? Can you outsource the task to an independent consultant or a freelancer?

Make a plan for replacement

If you decide to backfill the role, start making plans to find a suitable replacement. Don’t rush this process – you want to make sure that the new hire has the skills required and is a cultural fit for your company.

That said, you shouldn’t wait too long to find a replacement. Overburdening the team members with duties that were normally assigned to the vacant position can lead to stress and dissatisfaction.

You don’t want to lose any more of your valuable team members. For that reason, communicate with the team that you’re in the process of looking for a replacement and that any additional work they’re taking on is temporary.

If the employee held a managerial role, you should consider promoting someone from within.

Your current employees might be more suitable for the role than a new employee – especially if the manager delegated duties to them.

Evaluate your leadership

Most employees quit their jobs because of bad managers. When a good employee leaves, it is time to evaluate your leadership. To get a clear picture of what happens on the ground, it’s a good idea to survey your remaining employees about the leadership and management of the company.

How do they feel about the managers? Are they treated fairly? This will help you spot leadership issues that may be contributing to high employee turnover. When you know where the problem is, don’t hesitate to fix it – even if it means firing a manager.