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You have lost a key member of your team….

Losing a key member of the team can be very traumatic for the business owner, especially if the company is small or the employee has been with you for a long time.The good news is that you can turn this crisis into an opportunity. Yes, an opportunity! It can be the prompt you needed to introduce new talent, restructure the team or promote an existing staff member who has shown potential. It may even be an opportunity to reduce your cost base, if you can reorganise without replacing the departing employee or hire a less costly replacement. Wider than that it can cause you to make overdue changes to your operational model or the focus of the business.

That said, there are certain actions you need to take when someone resigns :

1. Accept the resignation! Talking the individual into changing his/her decision to move to pastures new is rarely the right option. It may buy time but in most instances it is no more than delaying the inevitable.

2. Decide whether you want the individual to work out his/her notice period. This depends on whether there is a risk that the individual will leave with sensitive company information, the impact on other staff particularly if the staff member is disgruntled, and whether or not you need an orderly handover of responsibilities to other team members.

3. Show that you are on top of the situation. When communicating the news to the rest of the team you need to demonstrate that you have considered the implications and have a clear plan to address any issues arising.

4. Carry out an exit interview. It may be worthwhile to have this undertaken by a third party. Done properly this can produce valuable insights into how you are perceived as a manager, the morale within the team and the business model etc

5. Acknowledge the contribution of the departing staff member. Offer best wishes for the future (and mean it !). Handled well the ex staff member can be an ambassador for the company and recommend it as a place to work. Who knows, you may even rehire the individual at some stage in the future when they have had the benefit of wider experience elsewhere.

Possible wider considerations.

If employee turnover is high it should cause you to reflect on your HR policies :

– Are your pay and conditions competitive for different levels of skill/experience ? Benchmark with recruitment consultants and jobs websites.

– Do you offer clear career paths, and training/development opportunities?

– How good is people management in your company, including your own management skills?

– Is work challenging and intrinsically rewarding for everyone?

– Do you need a succession plan for key employees or to ‘over staff’ key functions?

Finally, do you need to systemise more of your operations to reduce dependency on particular individuals?

Your working assumption should be that employee turnover is inevitable, particularly in the current buoyant jobs market. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your business is immune. No matter how well you take care of your workforce and how ‘loyal’ they proclaim to be it is likely that you will lose some of the team to the jobs market or for other reasons at some stage.

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