How to cope when a valued member of staff leaves a team - Prelude

How to cope when a valued member of staff leaves a team

Losing a key member of staff can be a real blow, especially for a smaller company. But great companies are more than the sum of their parts, and the risks, costs, and disruption can be mitigated with a few relatively easy steps if you manage the exit process well.

During the notice period

As part of your standard HR processes, make sure you have your team on suitable notice periods. For senior or key staff, that could be up to three months, in order to give you enough time to find a qualified replacement.

But although this gives you some security, the reality is that people will lose motivation once they’ve handed in their notice, and it’s unrealistic to expect otherwise. Tying junior staff in for long notice periods can end up being counterproductive for team morale and the business as a whole, if they take their eye off the ball. Make the most of their time by giving leavers specific projects or deliverables with deadlines, which are more likely to be completed than ongoing responsibilities.

Get the leaver to map out their role

Especially in a small company, individuals may have lots of knowledge that only exists in their head. Get your leaver to write up a process document for their role with relevant links explaining what to do and where to access important documents, contact details, etc. Read them through to ensure you understand the role, so someone new can step in to the job with ease.

You can do this when someone hands in their notice, but it’s good practice to get your team to map out their roles in this way even if there’s no expectation they’ll resign. It means if they do leave unexpectedly for any reason it’s on hand, or if they’re off sick for a period of time, you can minimise any disruption.

Recruiting a replacement

Start recruiting straight away. One Supper Club member I know meets at least one person a week who’s a potential future recruit, even if there’s no role open, just to keep an eye on the market and to build up a bank of contacts for when he needs it. Having that fall-back option takes the stress off, and makes it less likely you’ll recruit the wrong person out of desperation!

Consider whether you can promote from within and recruit for the more junior role instead. You’ll benefit from consistency – someone who already knows the business and the team – and the promise of promotion can help incentivise the team in the future. And it’s likely to make your recruitment easier as well.

Keeping the team motivated

Inevitably, your focus will be on replacing the individual who’s leaving. But don’t ignore those who are staying in the team – after all, much of burden is likely to fall on their shoulders, whether that’s in training a new team member, or taking up the slack in the meantime. To avoid them becoming overwhelmed, sit down with them and work out together what tasks are absolutely necessary, and which are less immediately important. Then you can be sure that they’re focused on the priorities.

Regular meetings with the team in the transition period will help keep everything on track – keeping them motivated and ensuring any problems are resolved before they become real issues. In a small business, I think the entrepreneur ought to be managing this themselves, because if they’re not being seen to be supportive that could have a negative knock on effect for morale.

Make it an opportunity as well as a challenge

Getting stuck into the business like this is a great opportunity to reassess what the business needs and work out what skills and attributes you’re missing that are going to be important for achieving longer term goals. Incorporating this into your new job spec is a chance to not just replace the leaver but actively enhance the team, and build it up for the future into something even better.

This article originally appeared on KashFlow. Kashflow is is simple online accounting software for business owners that enables you to easily create professional invoices and add cashless payments to get paid instantly.


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