But suddenly, there’s a spanner in the works.
Completely out of the blue, a key member of staff tells you that they’re moving on to pastures new. In a small business, this can be a serious blow, and it can have a real impact on your bottom line if it’s not managed effectively.
So let’s take a look at what you need to do, in practical terms…
Establish exactly when the person will leave
Any employee with over a month’s service has to give a week’s notice, and the individual’s Terms of Employment will often specify longer than this. Check on the notice period that applies to the person resigning, and agree the leave date.
This way, you can sort out the outstanding admin arrangements, including payroll, and start to work out your next steps so there’s minimum impact on your business.
Where there’s a long notice period, employees sometimes ask if they can leave before the end. While you don’t have to agree to this, there won’t be much point keeping a disengaged team member around once they’ve completed their handover, especially in a customer facing role. Consider a compromise so that outstanding holidays are taken at the end of the notice period: you’ll have to pay them anyway.
Carry out an exit interview
You can’t retain everyone you recruit, but it makes sense to keep an eye on the reasons why people move on to different things. An exit interview, informal and in private, will allow you to pull together some valuable feedback about why your member of staff decided to leave. It may uncover common factors in the workplace that, if improved, would help to retain other team members, such as lack of career prospects or problems with colleagues.
You can’t make any assumptions unless you ask the person! There are often immediately apparent reasons and then underlying reasons.
A good structure is to explore the pull and then the push factors: start with the new role and why it attracted them, and move on to the reasons for leaving – especially what might have encouraged the person to stay. Finish on a positive note and ask what they’ve enjoyed about working for the company.
Remember that because you’re the boss, you’re not always going to get the full and complete truth. It might be worth outsourcing this part of the process, so you can be sure that you’re getting more reliable and meaningful information to work with. The Human Resource can do this for you as retained HR consultants.
Craft your continuity plan
We appreciate that it’s not easy in a small business to plan for key people leaving but once you have the resignation, you’ll need to move quickly to work out how you’ll make sure productivity remains high, and your business doesn’t suffer.
Part of this is likely to involve looking for a new member of staff. Factor in at least a month to recruit a replacement, often several months. If you really need to move quickly, consider an agency temp or fixed term contactor.
For now, consider how you can bridge any gaps by using your existing workforce, without making unreasonable demands. It may not be ideal, but there’s often a silver lining: you could be giving an ambitious employee an opportunity to step up and broaden their experience.
Make sure the person leaving gives a proper handover so that work continuity doesn’t suffer in the short term. Most people take pride in making sure their job is done properly and would hate to think of everything they’ve done being wasted when they leave. You can use this potential co-operation to make sure they pass on the detail and know-how. This could be to others in the team, to you, or just handover notes.
Thank your employee for their contribution
Keep the future in mind: the person leaving could go on to refer business your way, or they may even become a customer or a client in the future.
And of course, you definitely don’t want to face the fallout that could come with your employee ending their time with you on a sour note. A little bit of consideration can go a long way.