Unexpected resignations can present big challenges for any business but especially for nonprofits with an already limited staff. Image the shock slowly turning into disappointment, anger and dread. Abrupt departures can be an emotional blow to the psyche, especially if it is someone who has positively contributed to the company. Now what?
Once you’ve processed the emotional aspects of losing a star employee, you’re then faced with the challenge of making sure things run smoothly through the transition. The following steps can help you effectively manage your staff during an unexpected staff departure:
- Accept and reflect – Don’t take it personally, oftentimes employees resign for growth opportunities and if their reasons are related to your management style, they usually won’t say so. How you act now is pivotal in maintaining a good standing with them and sparing the company from any backlash once the employee is officially gone.
- Show your support – A good manager will support and wish its employee well. Don’t hesitate to offer a recommendation if the employee deserves it.
- Confer with your Human Resources department – It’s important to understand company procedure as related to resignations so you are prepared on how to handle any specific questions that may arise.
- Explore the merits of a counter-offer – You should be selective about who to give a counter-offer to and who to let go. Whether or not to make a counter offer comes down to how critical this person is to you and how much of a disruption their absence will cause.
- Develop a transition plan – Deciding how to divvy up responsibilities while you are short-handed can be difficult. Start by determining which tasks just can’t go unattended and if any can be put on hold. Discuss those priorities with your staff to divide among existing employees and ascertain if additional interim help will be required.
- Communicate – You can’t control how others will react to the news, but you can control how it gets communicated. Be positive and show respect by acknowledging the work the departing employee has done. Being honest about the impact on the team and offering a temporary plan of action will go a long way in easing the minds of your remaining staff.
- Transfer knowledge – Once you have figured out who will take on what, it’s a good idea to arrange time for training during the notice period before the departing employee leaves. Capturing unique knowledge the employee has developed over the years isn’t always as easy to capture but having an extensive shadowing mechanism can help in obtaining that information.
- Review the current job description and revise if necessary – Transitions are a good time to review a job description. You want to ensure company needs are being met and possibly add new responsibilities. Asking employees for input on what skills, experience and qualities they would like to find in the new hire can help ensure any gaps are covered.
- Post the job opening ASAP – Coordinate with HR to formally post a job listing in an effort to show your staff this transition period is temporary.
- Throw a Going Away Party – This small gesture should never be overlooked. It’s important to gather your team and say “thanks” to the person leaving. Failure to acknowledge an employee’s departure and his or her contributions sends a bad message to the rest of your team.
When an employee resigns it creates uncertainty which creates stress. While losing some of your best people is inevitable, it doesn’t have to wreak havoc on the entire infrastructure. Managers set the tone for what happens next and with clear communication and mindful delegation; you can ensure an unexpected departure doesn’t turn your business structure upside down.