Part 3: When Employees Leave
It’s time to discuss what to do when an employee leaves.
It can be a devastating moment when a valued employee comes to you and gives his or her notice. Granted, it’s much more devastating when someone just ups and walks out the door, but whatever the circumstances, transitioning between employees isn’t always pleasant, and it’s almost always stressful.
When we hired our first employee at Nibmor, we didn’t have a clear strategy for what would happen if that employee ever left us. When our first employee quit, we were completely unprepared. I went to my sister for help. Her advice was of enormous benefit to us, and so I’m passing it along to you.
Here’s what she told me:
If the professional relationship is ending on good terms, see how long you can possibly retain that employee beyond the date they wish to leave. If you’re given two weeks’ notice, for instance, offer to pay that person for a few extra days, a month, or on reduced hours to help you get all the information you need from them. This would include any information in the employee’s brain that isn’t documented elsewhere— passwords, contacts, processes . . . these sorts of things. If you’re paying that person for this period of time, they should be quite agreeable.
When you have someone leave you and they were responsible for a function of your business that you have not been involved in, you can’t even imagine how stressful a situation that can be. Retaining that employee for as long as possible really is money in the bank . . . frustration averted. It is so worth it to have your butt covered and to have them leave in a friendly way because they’ve been compensated for their time.
Most people will also appreciate the opportunity to make some extra money, unless they are going directly to another job.
When there are fall outs, you do the best you can. If they won’t come in for an exit interview, get something in writing. Have them promise they won’t disparage the company, that they are not entitled to additional pay, that they aren’t entitled to unemployment benefits, etc.
2. Conduct an exit interview
Exit interviews are fantastic, and you really need to conduct one of these with each employee who leaves you.
During an exit interview, you sit with the employee and go over all of the contracts and documents that person signed when you hired them. Discuss what they can say and what they can’t say. Talk about disparagement, remind them of the non-compete agreement they signed, tell them that all emails are company property, and go over anything else you need them to be clear on. You can also use this opportunity to gather valuable feedback about how your employee felt working for you and your company. You may not be able to change your employee’s mind about leaving, but it’ll help you for your next hire.
Exit interviews are a fantastic way to wrap things up with your employee and wish him or her well on the next journey. It really does help you both leave on a feel-good note.
You can do some searching on the Internet (if you don’t have a sister like I do) to find an HR system that will help you with all of this. But if you’re too small for something like this, just go ahead and ask around. If you worked in a corporate job or if you know anyone who works in HR, ask them if you can pick their brains.
Cover your butt. As great as it is to hire employees, you must be responsible on their exit. You do not want these people leaving with proprietary information, industry secrets, or patents. If you don’t handle this right, you could end up being sued or having someone starting a business based on your ideas.
Having people quit is part of running a company, and you need to be prepared.
It will take you one afternoon to create this packet. Search the internet for templates. Keep it simple. These exit documents should be clear and concise. There’s no need for formal legal speak. When you’re ready to beef the documents up, go to an attorney and they will be happy that you’ve put things in place.
Do you have a great piece of advice on the topic of dealing with employee transition?
Celebrated health coach, cooking instructor, yogi, and writer, Heather K. Terry, is a true health aficionado. She is co-founder and CEO of NibMor Chocolate, co-founder of the Gluten Free Sugar Cleanse, and a strong advocate of eating real, simply prepared, organic foods and avoiding genetically modified, highly-processed food-like objects. A graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and The French Culinary Institute of Manhattan, Heather’s passion for food and nutrition are palpable. www.heatherkterry.com