You know the obvious steps when a great employee quits. These aren’t those.
Employees never cease to surprise us–in many wonderful ways. But sometimes the surprise stings, especially when they leave the company at a time you thought they were happy. This emotional topic is why high profile experts often weigh in with strategies to keep your best employees from bolting.
But quit happens.
And when it does, you already know the usual drill: see if you can do anything to change their mind, understand why they’re leaving to ensure nothing foul is afoot, and already start forgetting them and shift focus on who can replace them.
First and foremost, when your star leaves, be happy for them. If they’re a star, they’re good and in good stead at your company, so odds are it wasn’t an easy decision. We’re all just rentals anyway in the grand scheme, right? So now is the time to appreciate what they’ve done, who they are, and where they’re going for what reason.
1. The elevating exit interview
You already know what an exit interview is. But do you think of it as a selling tool? As an opportunity to elevate (positively) the exiting employee’s point-of-view of his or her soon to be former employer?
The best exit interviews I ever conducted with employees were when I showed I was an ambassador of the employee, not just of my company.
2. The stay interview
This is meant for other stars, not for the one who has already made his or her mind up. It’s proactive, not reactive.
Use the employee exit as an important prod to never assume absolute loyalty from anyone. Conduct a world-tour with your world-beaters to find out if they’re happy, why they’re happy (so you can feed more of that), what you could do to further fuel their personal learning and growth, and in general remind them that you care.
In conducting research for my book Make It Matter, I discovered that a whopping 40 percent of employees had at least a “moderate chance to change their exit decision” if someone had checked in with them often enough about their happiness or what they needed.
3. The team interview
Don’t forget when a star leaves, especially a culturally important star; it has an impact in more ways than you might realize.
So, take the time to find out how the team is feeling. Give them context, be honest about why the star left (with the star’s permission), and be honest about what you/the company has learned from it (see point four below). Use the touch base with the team as another opportunity to appreciate their strengths and look for ways to bolster them.
4. The “innerview”
No, this isn’t a typo. It’s a self-reflective interview meant just for you. Step back and ask yourself if you were part of the reason the employee left. Ask yourself if the company as a whole could have done something differently. The way people work and what they want is changing–are you or your company changing to keep pace? Be willing to be vulnerable to get the help you need to make the changes you need to prevent future talent drain.
So use exits as a way to enter into a thoughtful post-mortem process. It just might prevent future parting of ways.