Employee transition is a reality of business – it’s unavoidable. Whether staff are being promoted within the organization, leaving for other opportunities, or heading into retirement; the loss, if not managed correctly, can be detrimental. Many organizations fail to adequately prepare for employee turnover: either they are blindsided by the sudden loss of a key employee, or they fail to perform an effective exit interview. Here are two key areas that your company may be failing at when it comes to employee transition:
1. You Haven’t Created Succession Plans for Key Positions
A key employee suddenly announces their retirement, but your company doesn’t have a replacement at the ready. Instead, your team hires outside of the organization to fill the gap, but in doing so, the employee’s client relationships are lost. While preparing for these losses may seem impossible, cultivating your rising stars through mentorship and intentional succession planning mitigates this loss, however unexpected. Intentional succession planning requires the cooperation of HR and senior leadership – together, you pinpoint those employees with the correct skills and abilities to create a pool of potential successors. An example of what potential leadership successors may need are:
- a knack for building relationships – with clients and colleagues;
- a clear understanding of the company’s vision, goals, strategies, and values;
- an understanding of the company’s cultural intricacies and subgroups; and
- a talent for leading, without a need for recognition.
Creating a pool of future leaders involves three crucial steps:
- Identifying leadership traits early. Through regular communication with your employees and scheduled reviews, leadership abilities will come to light. Make note of those who are natural leaders, no matter what level they are currently at within the organization.
- Creating leadership opportunities. Provide future leaders with opportunities to build and test their skills. Senior management can then observe how these employees do; how they build their own abilities, and how they motivate others. An example of one way to do this is in developing project committees and seeing who takes the lead and how they manage the project.
- Providing skill development. As previously mentioned, your company’s learning culture is essential to its performance. This also applies to succession planning. Formal leadership training gives potential successors the necessary knowledge and experience they need to ready them for this important next role. Creating a customized internal management-training program is an excellent way to groom your organization’s future leaders.
2. You’re Not Conducting Proper Exit Interviews
An employee gives notice and instead of an exit interview, their direct supervisor asks on the spot why they are leaving. Or, after tendering his resignation, an employee works his last two weeks and on his final day, someone finally sits him down for a quick exit interview. Or, midway through an employee’s final two weeks, an exit interview is scheduled but they are only asked an outlined set of questions. In all of these cases, the organization conducted an exit interview, but they unwittingly inhibited their own ability to acquire useful, essential information about their business.
To get the most out of your exit interviews you must create a safe space for employees to be honest and forthright. The Harvard Business Review notes that how and when you conduct your exit interview determines how candid your departing employee will be. Consider the following:
- Who is conducting the exit interview? External HR expertise in the form of a transition consultant is the best person to conduct an exit interview. They are outside of the company and if conducted properly will be able to gather the most useful information. If this resource is not available, an internal HR expert may help with the exit interview strategy, but the interview should be carried out by a manager that is not their direct supervisor. This creates enough distance between the employee and manager to allow them candour, while also showing the employee that his/her departure matters.
- When should the exit interview occur? The best time is halfway between the resignation and actual departure; this soothes any emotional strain of announcing they are leaving, but catches the employee before they have mentally checked out.
- What is the best way to conduct the exit interview? If possible, conduct your interview face to face. A phone interview can be just as effective if the employee is in a quiet location and can be undisturbed. Have key questions prepared based on a strategy of the type of useful business information you hope to learn, but also allow for an informal discussion. Also, ensure your interviewer lends an empathetic ear; that he/she listens more than speaks, making the employee feel heard.
Having regular conversations about succession planning with key employees, will help you manage eventual employee transitions. As well, conducting a proper exit interview will provide your organization with information that can help you improve overall.